She decided not to leave him alone

A story I missed a couple of weeks ago – that Whole Foods fired a worker because she stayed home with her kid during a snow emergency.

Rhiannon Broschat, a single mother in Chicago, decided to stay home from work on the freezing cold day of Jan. 28 because school was canceled. Broschat says she looked for someone to take care of her special-needs son, couldn’t find help, and decided not to leave him alone. That is a good thing, the kind of decision employers and all of us should move over to make room for. But Whole Foods fired Broschat. It’s not quite that simple, since, according to ThinkProgress, Whole Foods in the Midwest gives workers five unexcused absences over six months, and this was the one that put Broschat over the line. (She says she had documentation for her other absences.) But still: If she’d gone to work that day, Broschat would still have her job.

School was canceled, ffs. That doesn’t happen all the time. I know employees can’t just stay home whenever they feel like it, but surely the above situation is rare enough and exigent enough that a decent company could make allowances.

The Whole Foods spokesperson told ThinkProgress that its stores were open across Chicago, city transportation was running, and fewer than 10 employees didn’t come to work that day because of unexcused absences.

What’s that got to do with anything? Broschat’s son’s school was canceled, so the fact that city transportation was running is beside the point. It’s unfortunate that she doesn’t have a better support system, but guess what, good support systems don’t just fall out of the sky. People who have them can probably work at places that are better to them than Whole Foods was to Rhiannon Broschat. The person it’s really unfortunate for that Rhiannon Broschat doesn’t have a better support system is Rhiannon Broschat, not Whole Foods. Whole Foods can get along fine, but Rhiannon Broschat can’t.



  1. Trebuchet says

    Whole Foods would probably have been happy to sell her some homeopathic medicine to fix her son’s special needs.

  2. quixote says

    The head of Whole Foods is an Ayn-Rand-style libertarian not-quite-human. This story disgusts me, but doesn’t surprise me. Friends don’t let friends shop at Whole Foods.

  3. jefflowder says

    Not only do support systems not fall out of the sky, but parents of special needs children have it extra hard. They need more support than other parents, not less. I feel for her.

  4. says

    I’m pretty sure leaving her son at home, aside from being unethical, would certainly have qualified as neglectful supervision, which is illegal most places. So Whole Foods can just go around firing people for obeying the law by ensuring their children are properly supervised?

  5. Sassafras says

    The people in that article’s comments are so quick to focus on the five unexcused absences in six months as a defense of WF’s actions, but I worked at one for four years and it was incredibly easy to rack those demerits up. Between the anti-doctor clientele bringing their untreated diseases in and co-workers coming into work sick because they have no sick leave, even the best workers are constantly on the line of being fired.

  6. Blanche Quizno says

    If Rhiannon Broschat had some sort of crowd-funding website, I’d go donate. She’s a single mom with a special-needs child – she needs all the help she can get.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    I think and hope that Rhiannon Broschat has a strong legal case for re-instatement -esp. given Michael Brew’s comment #3 – and maybe even punitive damages against Whole foods for this decision. I hope she drags their backsides to court and wins big enough to prevent such abuses in the future.

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ^ PS. for clarity : I am NOT a lawyer and not sure what the US state’s / federal laws are, but c’mon!

    Surely this has to be illegal right?

  9. mildlymagnificent says

    Surely this has to be illegal right?

    Don’t be so sure. You (and I) would be speaking from Australia where we still have most of the sensible labour laws our forebears had the good sense to legislate.

    You really can’t be sure whether there are any decent labour regulations anywhere in the USA without carefully checking where the workplace is and what all the relevant provisions are in that area. It’s disgraceful. But it’s true.

  10. Guess Who? says

    @7, this is perfectly legal in the USA, where pro-lifers wail over every fertilized egg, but fire women for taking care of actual, born children. Even in higher-paying jobs, women are still discriminated against for having children. I’m in IT; after six years in the same job with stellar job ratings, I became pregnant and the HR person I consulted about my upcoming leave gleefully told me there was no maternity leave; that it would all have to come out of any vacation I’d manage to accrue, because pregnancy is “a self-inflicted wound” (unlike say, breaking one’s leg while skiing or having a heart-attack from decades of poor eating–that’s covered by the medical plan and short-term disability package). A woman with children learns quickly to lie about sick leave–it’s never ever okay to stay home because you have a sick infant or child, but saying you are staying home because you’re sick is grudgingly accepted (so long as you’ve accumulated enough sick leave, that is).

  11. carlie says

    In the US, employers can only be sued for firing someone if it was done for an extremely narrow range of particular types of discrimination. Other than that, one can be fired for any reason whatsoever. In “right to work” states it’s even worse, because even unions can’t step in with grievances.

  12. Guess Who? says

    @10; absolutely. Getting pregnant or caring for children is a perfectly fine excuse to be fired in a “right-to-work” state. @7 again; a couple of years ago I left a job that offered 8 days a year of leave–sick leave and vacation time, combined. Again, I’m in a highly-technical field, and that was the garbage leave I had. Employers in the USA are not forced to offer any kind of vacation or sick leave whatsoever.

  13. scenario says

    I can see it from both sides to some extent. A friend of mine lives in an area that has already had 10 snow days this year. 10 days a year plus is not an extremely rare situation. At some point, businesses have to draw a line. 10 snow days, another 5 days because the sitter calls in sick, etc. With some people that I know, it ended up being 3 or 4 days a month for one reason or another.

    On the other hand, I once worked for a company that fired a man because he went to his wife’s funeral. Since she was buried in California and he worked in New England, the company considered his wife to be a distant relative.

    Companies need to be able to draw a line somewhere, but where? Right now the line is so far on the side of business that it has become abusive in many situations. But businesses cannot stay in business without workers.

  14. Reggie Dunlap says

    Having worked at a Whole Foods it takes some effort to exhaust your second chances. In their sector they treat their employees rather well. I feel sympathy for her but she would have had many ways to prevent getting in this situation.

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