Yesterday, food theme park Whole Foods announced it is laying off 1,500 employees as part of an effort to lower prices. Here is what those laid-off employees are offered on the way out the door.

Whole Foods pointedly cites its “generous” severance offer in its press release announcing the layoffs. And—at least in the context of retail or service industry jobs—that would seem to be a fair description.

Multiple tipsters forwarded us copies of the letter that Whole Foods gave to employees who have been selected for layoffs. They are told they can apply for open positions at other Whole Foods stores if they wish, and the company will make up some of the salary difference if they land a lower-paying job than they had before. (There’s no relocation package, so this is hardly a golden “benefit,” but it’s better than nothing.) If employees choose to just accept their layoffs, they get severance pay—as well as an extra payout of eight weeks salary if they agree not to re-apply at Whole Foods for six months.

The Whole Foods severance pay plan, cited in one version of the letter we received, consists of “a minimum of two weeks’ pay for every 2000 hours of service and a maximum of 26 weeks’ pay, contingent upon the execution of a release of claims.” Not an especially generous package for newer employees, and fairly run-of-the-mill for white collar jobs, but the state of pay and benefits in most large corporate retail chains is so paltry that this offer makes Whole Foods look rather good by comparison.

Whether you think this means that Whole Foods is good, or that the state of the American labor-corporate relationship is out of wack, is up to you.

Update: This is from a Q&A sheet given to newly laid-off Whole Foods employees. The answer to the first question is a model of corporate communication.

[Photo: AP]