Standing Up for Abortion Rights in the Workplace
On June 24, 2022, a seismic shift occurred in the world of reproductive rights in America. The US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, one of our country’s most important pieces of legislation. No doubt, the highest court’s ruling struck a nerve with anyone who understands the far-reaching implications of this decision.
Corporations from coast to coast and in every industry have taken steps to support their employees by helping them gain access to legally-protected abortions. The support has come in the form of funds, travel and even accommodations for people who live in states where the abortion ban is upheld.
BIG COMPANIES USING BIG VOICES
Brilliant Ink has taken our seat among companies taking a stand. As employers, we realize that our responsibility to our employees must go beyond the work. When people show up for us, do their jobs, make our customers happy, and help us succeed, we must show up for them.
Our recently launched Health Reimbursement Account will offer up to $5,000 for any employee who needs to travel out of state to access abortion services. And because it’s managed by a 3rd party, iSolved, it will protect our people’s right to privacy.
With this program, we stand with other companies who are looking out for their employees, including:
- Levi Strauss & Co. has said that all employees – including part-time hourly workers (think store associates and warehouse workers) – are eligible for reimbursement for healthcare-related travel expenses for services not available in their home state.
- Vox Media has updated its pregnancy loss leave to cover people who get abortions, in addition to reimbursing employees who must travel to receive abortion or gender-confirming care.
- Salesforce will help employees relocate if they are worried about access to abortion services.
- Rhia Ventures is a social impact investment firm that maintains a database of what small and large companies are doing, and also offers this resource to help companies understand how they can strengthen reproductive health care for their employees.
- Amalgamated Bank is taking a leadership position on the subject, clearly documenting its actions and commitments on its website, and CEO Priscilla Sims Brown has spoken out loudly on protecting abortion rights as a workplace issue:
“This is a devastating and dangerous blow for millions of Americans, particularly underserved communities, people of color, rural families, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants.”
No doubt, it is not easy for every company to take a position on this topic. In fact, employers could even face future legal risks. But if ever there was a time for corporations to stand up and support human rights, it is NOW, as employees are demanding that their employers consistently demonstrate their values in their actions.
HOW YOU CAN STAND UP
If your company has trepidations about how to support employees, you are not alone. The most important thing to know is that if a company tells employees they are going to do something, they must stand by that truth. Action can take many forms.
Some companies will upgrade their health benefits. Others will offer financial support, and others will implement new resources like health reimbursement arrangements that supplement their employee benefits, or leverage cutting-edge health services like Maven virtual care.
If your company has made commitments in the past, what are you doing to hold them accountable?
As internal communications and HR pros, we have a responsibility to hold leadership to its promises. Can you escalate your concerns to your CEO or Chief People Officer? Can you tap into your employee resource groups (ERGs) to use their role and position in the organization?
Perhaps you can point to examples of other company leaders taking a stand, or the fact that the majority of Americans supported upholding Roe v. Wade. Most of all, encourage leaders to consider the employee retention and talent attraction risks involved in failing to act. At this moment in history, the companies that will stand out most are those that do nothing at all.
WHY OUR EMPLOYEES NEED US
To me, there’s no question this is a workplace issue.
Disrupting the lives of people who need abortion care and their families and limiting their access to safe, competent healthcare can pull people away from work and cause them to lose confidence in companies that they have poured their energy and ideas into. What’s more, if your people are feeling stressed about how to access health services, they are certainly going to be less focused, and their overall mental well-being will suffer.
This is not a religious, political or business position. A person’s health decisions and the reasons behind them are private and should be respected and protected – that should be enough to compel employers to do something.
As most people in America won’t be testifying before Congress, their employer may be the largest and most powerful entity they can access. We must hold ourselves and each other accountable for the promises we made to our employees when they joined our teams. I hope all companies will join us in standing up for their people’s rights, their health and their overall well-being.