Business

WinCo tells workers: Avoid offensive talk of nationalities, religion, immigration status

Shoppers exit the WinCo Foods on Fairview Avenue in Boise on July 1, 2013.
Shoppers exit the WinCo Foods on Fairview Avenue in Boise on July 1, 2013. jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

A top lawyer at WinCo Foods has issued a notice telling employees to be respectful and “refrain from any discussions regarding politics or the election” while they are at work.

The notice was spurred in part by complaints about employee conduct after the Nov. 8 election.

WinCo is an employee-owned discount grocery chain based in Boise. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the notice, which was distributed in a Nov. 11 email from Melissa Vandenberg, senior corporate counsel.

“In the last three days, we have received several complaints from individuals coming into our stores (customers and vendors) about employees making inappropriate and offensive remarks regarding their nationalities, religious beliefs and/or immigration status,” the email said.

The email did not say which stores received complaints or how WinCo handled them. WinCo has stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. It plans to expand soon to Montana and Oklahoma.

Vandenberg urged store managers and supervisors to “reiterate this message” to employees working in the stores and to place several copies in break rooms and on break-room bulletin boards.

“Discussions regarding politics do not belong in the workplace and at this moment, such discussions can be considered not just divisive, but also offensive and hateful,” it said. “We all need to be respectful of each other, no matter what.”

Offensive comments and conduct are against company policy, the email said.

[Read more: Some Treasure Valley Latinos feel ‘scared’ and ‘hopeless’ after Trump win]

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The full text of the notice:

I know the election and the surprising results have caused all of us to have an emotional reaction — for some, it was positive, and for others, it was not. This election has been polarizing, and as many media outlets have stated, we are a nation-divided.

That said, we are not and cannot be a WinCo-divided.

In the last three days, we have received several complaints from individuals coming into our stores (customers and vendors) about employees making inappropriate and offensive remarks regarding their nationalities, religious beliefs and/or immigration status.

Discussions regarding politics do not belong in the workplace and at this moment, such discussions can be considered not just divisive, but also offensive and hateful. We all need to be respectful of each other, no matter what.

I want to remind everyone of our Non-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment policy, which strictly prohibits racial slurs and other harassing, discriminatory or otherwise offensive comments and conduct. I also want to remind everyone the first lines of our WinCo Foods Company Personnel Policies, as paraphrased, state that all employees are expected to be courteous, kind, respectful to each other at all times — that includes customers, vendors, everyone. It is the first paragraph of our policies — it is who we are and what we stand for.

If you hear or overhear an employee making any inappropriate or offensive remark about another individual, whether that is an employee, customer or vendor, you are required to report that to the manager or supervisor as soon as possible. All employees need to refrain from any discussions regarding politics or the election at work out of respect for each other, the customers and vendors.

We are members of every community where we operate — our employees are members of that community; our customers are members of that community. And all of those communities are diverse; many of those communities are in shock and find the slightest discussion regarding the election results to be traumatic (and some will find it offensive).

Regardless of what is happening outside the walls of WinCo Foods, inside our stores all people are welcome and should be made to feel safe and valued.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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