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Companies get political

When governments restrict reproductive rights, private companies get political.

Protestors react outside the U.S. Supreme Court to the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year,
This story was published on our The Memo from Quartz at Work newsletter, Practical advice for modern workers everywhere.
  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Cassie writes about the world of work.

Published

Nearly 50 years ago, when the US Supreme Court decided that access to an abortion was a constitutional right, women’s rights advocates celebrated a hard-earned victory, the conservative right seized the opportunity to further polarize American politics, and business was, well, business as usual.

Corporate America in 2022 is handling things differently.

This week, when Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision showing that a majority of justices had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, some company chiefs were ready for it.

At progressive companies, abortion is now recognized as a workplace issue, one that has implications for an organization’s gender equity and diversity efforts, its commitment to social justice, and its pledges to support employees’ physical and psychological wellbeing.

On a strategic level, a reversal of Roe v. Wade, would trigger automatic bans in several states, which could damage US businesses’ ability to be competitive, to attract and retain the best talent.

Cities in anti-abortion states (which are largely clustered in the South) would struggle to convince firms to build their next headquarters in a place where women are cut off from access to a safe, legal abortion.

As states chipped away at Roe v. Wade this past year, some companies began expanding employees’ medical benefits, pledging to cover the costs for employees living in states where abortions have been severely limited to travel to a state where abortions are still available to them.

This week, Amazon became the latest large company to join the list of firms—which includes Apple, HP Enterprise, Yelp, and Citigroup—to offer such benefits. (Perplexingly, Amazon, earlier this week, also ended its policy to provide paid leave for frontline employees testing positive for covid.)

More companies may well feel the pressure to follow the likes of Apple, Yelp and others, by pledging support for employees directly or indirectly affected by regressive abortion restrictions.

It will likely be a few weeks before the Supreme Court issues its final opinion. Until then, watch this space.—Lila MacLellan


Five things we learned this week

⚖️ Abortion is illegal in 20 countries. If the US moves to restrict it, here’s the list of other countries it will join.

🔎 Searches for burnout are at an all-time high. Google Trends’ data are imperfect, but signal a growing hunger for help with the condition.

✏️ The genius of Ray and Charles Eames might not be genius after all. The newly-opened Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity suggests they just really worked hard at what they loved.

🌎 Airbnb is writing its own rules for remote work. The company is going all in on “from anywhere.”

👩‍✈️Is United walking the walk when it comes to diversity? Its pilot academy is making a concerted effort to recruit from underrepresented groups.


What’s your position on penne?

Some pasta lovers swear by the smoothness of penne lisce, while others say the ridges on penne rigate help the sauce stick. Who’s right?  🎧  Tuck into the answers with this week’s episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast, on the rise of pasta as a global staple.

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Today’s Memo was written by Lila MacLellan and Cassie Werber and was edited by Francesca Donner. The Quartz at Work team can be reached at work@qz.com.

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