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Roe v. Wade overturned: What that means for employees right now

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: On Friday the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion. Now that it’s up to individual states to decide abortion laws, how will tech companies with headquarters in states with restrictive abortion laws respond?

Plus: Only 29% of employees think the executives at the top of their companies are leading with empathy, and Yelp is getting rid of office space in NYC, D.C. and Chicago, but not San Francisco.

"An obligation to support employees"

The likelihood of a Roe v. Wade reversal has been brewing since May, but on Friday it became official. The constitutional right to abortion no longer exists, and anyone who has been hesitant to act based on a draft opinion will now have to face this reality.

And that includes tech companies.

Tech leaders have had over a month to prepare for this eventuality. Some companies based in states with abortion restrictions have been very public about the benefits they plan to offer. Protocol reached back out to see how Roe’s official overturn has affected the urgency of these plans.

  • Yelp clarified that its decision to cover abortion-related travel costs back in April was “not limited to states that had already banned equitable access to reproductive care.” Employees in states with abortion bans now triggered by Roe are eligible as well.
  • DoorDash underscored the anonymity of employees seeking travel reimbursement for abortion. A third-party administrator, bound by HIPAA, will handle the benefit. Still, with abortion further stigmatized, workers might be hesitant to disclose their abortion needs in a work environment.
  • CEO Marc Benioff tweeted, “Salesforce moves employees when they feel threatened or experience discrimination.”
  • Dell, which had previously declined to comment on a draft opinion, did not mention abortion by name but told Protocol, “We continue to work with our health care plan administrators to ensure the health coverage we offer provides access to all types of covered care, even when providers are not available in a team member’s home location.”
  • Iesha Berry, chief diversity and engagement officer at DocuSign, said the company will continue to cover travel and paid time off to access reproductive care out-of-state.
  • Companies like Microsoft and Match Group pointed Protocol to existing information on benefits, while others like Tesla and Apple didn’t respond to our request for comment at all.

Twitter is ablaze with reactions from leaders in tech.

  • Bill Gates called Friday a “sad day,” saying Roe’s reversal is an “unjust and unacceptable setback.”
  • Girls Who Code Founder and CEO Reshma Saujani published a thread decrying the decision and listing out ways to fight back.
  • Slack’s Stewart Butterfield told CNN's Julia Chatterley on Thursday that businesses should respond by covering abortion-related travel, the way they should with any inaccessible medical procedure. He added, “I know this is a very personal debate for many people, and I have strong opinions, and I think I represent the opinions of our employees. We want to be respectful to everyone, but at the same time I don’t think we can take away these fundamental reproductive rights from people, and companies have a bit of an obligation to support their employees.”

How tech companies respond in the weeks following this decision will set the standard for how they might respond if the Supreme Court undoes other civil rights protections.

  • “[W]e should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion. These rulings cemented rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
  • None of the companies Protocol reached out to specified how they’re preparing for future blows to civil rights.
  • “We can't speculate on future court decisions, but are focused on doing all we can to support our employees and ensure they and their dependents have timely, equitable access to healthcare,” DoorDash spokesperson Abby Homer wrote.
— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Yelp has left the building

Yelp announced last week that it will close its New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. offices in favor of remote work. The company also has plans to cut back its real estate presence in Phoenix. Only 1% of Yelp’s global employee base goes to the office every day, said Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in a public blog post. The company will hold onto its San Francisco headquarters, which it downsized last fall to just three floors. In his post, Stoppelman doubled down on the belief that remote-first is the best path forward for Yelp and that even a hybrid model is a mistake when it requires employees to show up at the office regularly. Stoppelman has been known to go head-to-head with other leaders over the merits of remote work and the future of work. Last month Stoppelman rebutted Founders Fund Partner Keith Rabois after he tweeted that he wanted to fund “IRL startups.” His call to action: “[L]ive in the future and fully embrace remote.”

Read the full story.


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Be a human leader

Work and life outside of work are increasingly linked these days, and more and more employees expect their business leaders to acknowledge this. That’s at least according to a March 2022 Gartner survey of 230 HR leaders, as well as a separate Gartner survey of 3,400 employees conducted in the same month.

  • 90% of HR leaders surveyed believe that executives need to “focus on the human aspects of leadership” to succeed in today’s work environment, which the report describes as being authentic, empathetic and adaptive (as in, enabling workplace flexibility).
  • Despite this, only 29% of employees surveyed reported that their leader displays these qualities.
  • Leading with empathy, adaptability and authenticity is a winning combination for those who do. Gartner found a 37% increase in engagement among employees who report to a “human leader” vs. those who don’t. Highly engaged employees improved their team’s performance by up to 27%.
— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

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