Tech companies are figuring out how to handle the upcoming historic Supreme Court decision that could overturn abortion rights. In the case of Meta, that includes telling employees to not talk about it at work. Meta VP of HR Janelle Gale told workers during an all-hands on Thursday not to talk about abortion on Workplace, the company's internal messaging platform.
She said that it's the "most divisive and reported topic" by employees on the platform, according to recordings obtained by the Verge. Meta has had a policy in place since 2019 that prevents employees from talking about abortion, but the policy hasn't been too much of an issue until recent weeks, after a Supreme Court draft opinion that would reverse Roe v. Wade was leaked.
Gale told employees that the issue is a "unique topic that kind of trips that line on a protected class." Rather than talking among employees about the issue in a public, written forum, executives said the issue can be discussed with a "trusted colleague in a private setting" or in a group with up to five "like-minded people."
"Even if people are respectful, and they’re attempting to be respectful about their view on abortion, it can still leave people feeling like they’re being targeted based on their gender or religion," Gale said, according to the Verge.
The message is seen as contradictory among employees. Some Meta employees argued that if they can talk "respectfully" about issues like Black Lives Matter, immigration and trans rights on Workplace, then they should be able to discuss abortion as well. One employee wrote in an internal message earlier this month that she felt a "strong sense of silence and isolation" at work because of the policy, and others have shared frustrations about their posts on the topic being taken down.
The policy is also at odds with public stances executives have taken on the upcoming court decision; Meta's Sheryl Sandberg publicly criticized the Supreme Court draft opinion, calling it a "scary day for women all across our country" when the opinion leaked.
A Meta spokesperson did not immediately return Protocol's request for comment.
How employees can — and can't — talk about abortion at work is only one facet of the evolving landscape for tech companies on women's reproductive health. Some, including Amazon and Bumble, have offered to pay for abortion-related travel costs ahead of the likely overturning of abortion rights in states where many tech companies operate. User data could also become a battleground in states that end up criminalizing abortion.