As an organizational communication scholar, I consulted with the company Extra Space Storage in summer 2022. With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, I was tasked with creating a brief to review aspects of this ruling as it affects organizations in the U.S. This blog post is an edited version of the brief I provided to Extra Space Storage.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, which forced companies across the US to address employee healthcare and needs in new and unprecedented ways. From an organizational communication interest, this historic decision has grave implications for employees, particularly women employees.
Ultimately, the post-Roe reality for many organizations grapples with supporting a healthy workplace. Organizational concern in employee health stems from the Human Resources perspective, which is primarily interested in “maximizing employee performance to serve organizational goals” (Sheer, 2017, para. 1). From this perspective, healthy employees make for a healthy organization. Issues surrounding workplace policy and culture, employee/employer expectations and understandings of distinctions between “work life” and “family life,” and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) efforts are up for discussion. Ultimately, the question remains: What does a “healthy workplace” look like in a post-Roe America?
The overturning of Roe v. Wade comes at a time when women are struggling in the workplace. Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce has not yet rebounded from the loss of women in the workplace (Hagelgans & Basi, 2022). With Roe v. Wade overturned, it is likely previous progress made with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) will slow or stall.
Companies are encouraged to be mindful of ways they can support and retain women. News articles on the Supreme Court’s decision highlight the complex decisions companies are forced to make and offer transparency around various human resources concerns, legal issues, and options in moving forward (see Nazeer, 2022). In terms of communicating with employees, companies can acknowledge that employees have diverse opinions on the issue of Roe v. Wade, though this fact should not prohibit companies from taking action in ways that can benefit employees (Hagelgans & Basi, 2022). In some cases, employees are taking matters into their own hands, demanding employers expand healthcare coverage in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (Schneider, 2022). Ideally, companies take action before employees organize to make requests or demands for change.
Early Survey Research
While scant research is currently available, some companies organized to gain early insights into the effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Regarding public statements surrounding the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a July, 2022 survey from The Conference Board, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, included 300 corporations and found that 8% of companies had made a public statement on Roe v. Wade, and 38% had addressed the issue internally (The Conference Board, 2022). Employee expectations of healthcare plans and coverage is another area of concern for companies. A July, 2022, LeanIn.org survey of 3,000 employees across the country revealed approximately three-quarters of women and men under 40 years of age prefer working for a company that supports abortion access and they are willing to change jobs in order to gain more generous reproductive healthcare (Elsesser, 2022; Lean In, n.d.).
Recommendations for Supporting and Retaining Employees Post-Roe
In late May/early June, the SHRM Research Institute surveyed 1,000 employees and asked participants to name the top five resources or benefits (either currently provided or not currently offered but desired) to support reproductive care (Miller, 2022). The responses identified:
- Paid time off (PTO) to access reproductive care
- Unpaid time off to attend marches, protests, demonstrations
- PTO to attend marches, protests, demonstrations
- Travel expenses benefits (gasoline, airfare, hotels) outside of health savings account (HSA) for employees to access abortion and reproductive services that are not accessible in their state of residence
- Company matches (including double matches) for employee donations in support of reproductive rights
Additional recommendations include (Hagelgans & Basi, 2022):
- Employers should recognize that some pregnant employees may have concerns about traveling for work to restrictive states in the event of a medical emergency.
- Flexible alternatives to travel and “no questions asked” policies should be enacted.
- Companies should reassess where their lobbying dollars are going and examine whether their political funding conflicts with the values and needs of their employees.
Connecting Post-Roe to DEI
According to the May/June, 2022, SHRM Research Institute survey, the top anticipated changes to organizations’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in relation to Roe v. Wade include (Hagelgans & Basi, 2022; Miller, 2022):
- Increasing support within an employee assistance program for abortion access/reproductive care.
- Providing resources for employees to get additional information, advice or counseling (such as from a county health department, Planned Parenthood or women’s services organizations).
- Providing time off for employees and their significant other (or caretaker) needing reproductive care, physical health or mental health.
- Incorporating within the company’s DE&I programs the topic of abortion access/reproductive rights.
- Increasing women’s reproductive coverage in employee health care benefits.
- Offering pre-tax dependent care benefits or on-site childcare.
The Conference Board. (2022). The US corporate response to recent supreme court decisions. https://www.conference-board.org/pdfdownload.cfm?masterProductID=39648
Elsesser, K. (2022, August 2). More than 75% of employees want to work for companies that support abortion access: Survey. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2022/08/02/employees-want-to-work-for-companies-that-support-access-to-abortion-according-to-leaninorg-study/?sh=79be84706a5b
Hagelgans, A. & Basi, S. (2022, June 30). Roe v. Wade’s demise is a turning point for corporate America. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/06/roe-v-wades-demise-is-a-turning-point-for-corporate-america
Halpert, M. (2022, July 20). Less than 10% of companies commented publicly on Roe v. Wade decision, poll finds. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/madelinehalpert/2022/07/20/less-than-10-of-companies-commented-publicly-on-roe-v-wade-decision-poll-finds/?sh=671319a6e20b
Lean In. (n.d.) Research: Abortion rights are a critical workplace issue. https://leanin.org/research/abortion-access-workplace-issue#!
Miller, S. (2022, June 24). Employers prepare benefits and policy responses to abortion ruling, SHRM survey finds. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/employers-prepare-benefits-and-policy-responses-to-follow-abortion-ruling-shrm-survey.aspx
Nazeer, C. (2022, July 12). What human-resource leaders are focusing on post-Roe. Time. https://time.com/charter/6195967/human-resources-roe-v-wade/
Schneider, J. (2022, August 4). First on CNN: Justice Department employees ask for expanded benefits to protect abortion access. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/04/politics/justice-department-employees-abortion-access/index.html