There are times when a snow day should just be a let-it-go day. People tend to overreact in ways that could be avoided if everyone just chilled out and waited for the plows to do their work.
The folks at a Chicago Whole Foods store may be reconsidering a snow-related action that brought once-loyal customers into the snowy streets to protest an action taken against a working mom with a special-needs child. Such a scene was starkly at odds with the upscale grocer’s carefully crafted image of good deeds and high-quality products and service.
In a nutshell (or snowball), here’s what happened: Whole Foods employee Rhiannon Broschat stayed home on a snowy day because, she said, she couldn’t find child care for her special needs son, whose school was closed due to the weather. When she called in the next day, she said, she was told she’d been fired for violating the company attendance policy.
Now, Broschat said she was a great employee, etc., etc, and wants her job back, with back pay and so on. The company offered a long-winded explanation of how she’d run afoul of a Byzantine attendance policy that must have been designed by a madman in a padded cell. The company wouldn’t comment on whether Broschat was a good employee or not.
All that aside, what happened after the firing probably undid years of company branding, at least in Chicago. Folks rushed to rally around the working mom. Union reps read angry statements, accusing Whole Foods of purporting to support family values while firing a young mother trying to take care of her son. TV stations captured the action and newspapers ran wild with the sizzling tale.
“Whole Foods Market takes pride in its global giving,” opined Sun-Times reporter Stefano Esposito, “but one former employee at the Boystown location said the grocery store chain showed her no charity when it fired her last week.”
After describing the incident, he went on to capture the street-level reaction.
“About 40 people gathered in the wind and snow Wednesday morning outside Whole Foods’ Midwest regional headquarters in River North, supporting single mother Rhiannon Broschat, who said she was fired last week after choosing to stay home with her ‘special needs’ child instead of going to work during the bitter cold on Jan. 28,” reported Esposito.
Then, giving the offended mom a chance to add a mournful sound bite, Esposito elicited this tear-jerker: “I didn’t do anything wrong, except stay at home with my son when it was cold, and I made the right decision,” Broschat, who is also a full-time college student, told the Sun-Times.
It doesn’t get much colder than that in corporate branding land.