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Welcome to dystopia: Companies are paying for abortion travel

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: Why tech companies are paying for employees who need to travel out of state for abortion access, Google’s $9.5 billion investment in its data centers and offices, and more data on why your employees are a flight risk.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Yelp, Bumble and Apple are now covering abortion travel

Welcome to another week in this strange reality we call the present, during which yet another COVID variant is making its way across the U.K. and companies are finding themselves again stepping into weirder and thoroughly modern roles that, frankly, companies shouldn’t have to be stepping into, and yet here we are.

I’m talking about the fact that Yelp announced this week that it would be joining a slew of other companies that pledged to pay for employees to travel out of state to access abortions.

  • You read that right: Yelp, Citigroup, Apple, Match Group and Bumble are all expanding their coverage for abortions.
  • Why are these companies doing this? In short, they’re responding to the myriad laws restricting abortion across the U.S., especially the Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks, which went into effect Sept. 1. As a reminder, this law operates in a strange way, encouraging private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a forbidden abortion.
  • Yelp, based in SF, has over 200 employees in Texas. The policy also applies to employees in future states that restrict access to reproductive health care, which is likely to become relevant as more states pass anti-abortion legislation.
  • Other companies like Uber and Lyft have announced that they’ll be covering the legal fees of drivers who give rides to abortion clinics. Meanwhile, Yelp, Uber, Citigroup and Lyft have all recently donated to conservative politicians and groups that are moving abortion legislation forward, as Jezebel points out.

This all invites the question: Is it and should it be the responsibility of tech companies to assist employees with abortion access? We generally want to keep our personal lives separate from work, at least to a certain degree. Meanwhile, getting an abortion is perhaps one of the most intensely personal and private experiences of a person’s life.

  • So why is abortion access something that companies should care about? Yelp’s Chief Diversity Officer Miriam Warren put it succinctly to the WSJ: “When we’re talking about women’s advancement in their careers, trying to diversify boardrooms to see more women in them, and you look at these restrictions, they are absolutely intertwined in a way that I think is very damaging.”
  • In other words, abortion access is a matter of workplace equity. If some groups of people don’t have to worry about this and others do, there is an argument to be made that companies have a responsibility to ease the burden on workers unfairly affected by such legislation. That’s especially the case if the ones who should be carrying that responsibility, like federal and local governments, fail.
  • As cynical as it sounds to point this out, these policies are also a recruiting move. As the tech industry struggles across the board to recruit talent, let alone underrepresented female talent in a male-dominated field, policies like this one are huge differentiators. They’re a clear signal of a company’s culture and priorities, one that is sure to attract workers in growing tech hubs like Austin.

The privacy implications are also worth considering. Should employees have to disclose something as personal as needing an abortion to their HR departments? Would they feel comfortable? How would companies make sure that information is secure?

I’m reminded of a similar debate on miscarriage leave. Few organizations currently offer this type of leave, but there’s a growing consensus that maybe it’s not realistic or humane to expect people to go right back to work after something as physically and emotionally scarring as a miscarriage. Companies probably shouldn’t be in the position to make decisions about personal and sensitive issues like employee miscarriages or abortions, but as long as health care plans are tied to our employment, this might be inevitable.

We’ll be watching how the wider tech industry responds to ongoing and future abortion legislation, as well as how other companies are thinking about their shifting responsibilities towards their employees. If your company is trying out a new policy on either of these fronts, please let me know: mma@protocol.com.

Google’s $9.5 billion investment​

Google announced yesterday that it’s spending billions of dollars on offices and data centers across the United States and hopes to open up 12,000 new jobs this year. It might seem odd to expand while companies continue to work from home, but Google is not the only tech giant growing its office presence. Here’s how Google hopes to spend the dough:

  • Build out existing offices and create new ones. Google’s new spaces are being built in Atlanta, Austin and Portland, Oregon. It’s also improving campuses in New York, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
  • Invest in data centers. The company is spending some of the money on bolstering several data centers across the country, including those in Tennessee and Virginia.
  • Keep climate goals in mind. Google wants its Sunnyvale, California office to be certified by the International Living Future Institute.
Read the full story.

– Sarah Roach, news writer (email | twitter)


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Today's tips & tools

It’s never too late for Zoom tips. I compiled eight useful ones back in October, but this week online educator Tessa Davis tweeted out more. Here are my favorites:

  • Screen share from your iPhone. Click “share screen,” “iPhone/iPad via AirPlay” and “share.” It will give you instructions on how to mirror your mobile screen. (Be careful with this one in case you also use your iPhone to text your work bestie.)
  • Use shortcuts to quickly turn off your camera and mic. On Macs, command + shift + V turns off video whereas command + shift + A turns off mic. On Windows, alt + V turns off the camera and alt + A turns off the mic.
  • Highlight a portion of your screen. After you share your screen, you can click “annotate” to emphasize specific portions of it. Click “spotlight” and “arrow” to point to different parts of the screen. Or you can click “vanishing pen” to circle text on your screen. You can also share just a specific part of your screen by clicking “share screen,” “advanced” and “portion of screen.”
  • Put yourself in front of your slides. Click “share screen,” “advanced” and “slides as virtual background.” Then you can select a slides file from your computer and position your video in front of it.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

What’s behind the revolving door?

Execs who are still looking for explanations behind the Great Resignation, you’re in luck. Lattice just conducted a new survey of 2,000 U.S.- and Europe-based employees and found some interesting tidbits:

  • Goodbye to toughing it out for one year. Today’s workers no longer believe that short stints on a resume are undesirable, with 52% of U.S. employees with tenures of three months or less looking to leave and nearly 60% of employees with three-to-six-month tenures trying to do the same.
  • One year is still the “danger zone.” The greatest number of employees surveyed who said they were actively looking had been in their role between seven and 11 months.
  • The Great Resignation might be accelerating. 74% of those surveyed are either actively looking for or open to new opportunities in the next half a year to a year. That’s compared to 47% from a report this fall.

Making moves

Customer chat software company Intercom appointed L. David Kingsley as its first chief people officer. Previously, Kingsley was chief people officer at Alteryx.


More than ever, employees value their everyday work-life experience. With TouchTunes Unlimited, your employees choose the music and create the office vibe together. Leverage the power of social music to build a fun workplace culture and open new possibilities for creative team-building interactions.

Learn more

More stories from us

It’s the month of Ramadan. Support your observing colleagues.

Here’s how Uber and Lyft compromised with labor in Washington state — and kept drivers from becoming employees.

Do you have trouble focusing? Try Flow Club, a remote study hall for workers.

Amazon warehouse injuries spiked 20% in 2021. They accounted for nearly half of all warehouse injuries in the U.S.

WeWork is launching WeWork Workplace, a software tool for managing employees.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Sunday.

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