'People shouldn't have to look to their employers to receive basic human rights'

CEO, ERG head discuss how their employees have responded to Roe v. Wade being overturned

'People shouldn't have to look to their employers to receive basic human rights'

As soon as the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in May, the Docebo Women’s Alliance sprang into action.

An employee resource group (ERG) at Docebo, a global e-learning provider whose North America headquarters is in Toronto, the Docebo Women's Alliance formed a task force comprised of employees throughout the company (many of whom live in the United States). The task force developed calls to action, created resources to keep colleagues informed of the latest legal changes and reached out to senior leadership for assistance.

The company wasted little time announcing it would offer travel assistance to any employee who can no longer access necessary reproductive care within 100 miles of their primary place of residence due to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“It feels good to know I am covered and the women I work with will be okay and cared for,” Wynnona Haynes-McMahan, director of talent development at Docebo and leader of the Docebo Women’s Alliance, told HRD. “It’s alarming as a woman to know this is one more thing to consider as you navigate your career. Maybe I won’t feel this impact as much as others who are working for organizations who haven’t been as proactive or aren’t considering ways to support their employees.”

Read more: DEI leader urges HR to plan for attack on right to contraception, same-sex marriage

Veris Insights, a Washington D.C.-based recruiting analytics firm, conducted a string of surveys leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling. In a June survey of business professionals before Roe was repealed, a third reported that employer-provided benefits to support traveling for abortion were “very important” or “essential” for evaluating potential employers. Millennials in particular care greatly about these benefits, with 40% considering them “very important” or “essential,” beating every other demographic by 10 percentage points.

Many high-profile brands, including California-based employers like The Walt Disney Company, Meta, Netflix and more, have pledged to cover the travel expenses of employees who need to go out of state for abortions. Some, like Patagonia and Live Nation, have even vowed to cover bail expenses if their employees are arrested for peacefully protesting.

“The fact that so many companies are taking a very public stand and saying that they will absolutely work to support the rights of all the people on their team is heartening,” Amy Spurling, founder and CEO of Boston-based HR tech firm Compt, told HRD. “Do I think it should be their responsibility? Absolutely not, because people shouldn't have to look to their employers to receive basic human rights. I applaud the companies that are standing up for what is right for their teams.”

Thirteen states have "trigger" laws that would restrict abortion with Roe overturned: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Just minutes after the ruling, Missouri's attorney general Eric S. Schmitt declared his state's ban now in effect except in cases of medical emergency, CBS News reported.

Spurling says that several Compt employees in Texas and Arkansas have already been impacted by similar legal restrictions. For example, employees in an IVF (in vitro fertilization) process are frantically searching to ensure they can continue and not be forced to birth a number of embryos that could kill them, Spurling says.

“This dramatic reduction in access to health care, not to mention the removal of bodily autonomy, is egregious on every level,” Spurling adds.

Many people outside the U.S. share that sentiment, as evidenced by a spreadsheet of resources created by Docebo’s Roe task force. Employees in Mexico, Canada, France, Portugal and Italy (Docebo’s point of origin) have offered accommodations like spare bedrooms, access to Plan B, transportation and even financial assistance to colleagues impacted by the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

“Our ERGs function in a grassroots type of way to help give a voice to employees for all concerns,” Haynes-McMahan says. “When we talked about it in Slack, the global employee population jumped in to ask questions and offer support. We’ve been able to tackle it in a really personal way.”

Nearly 90% of women aged 18-60 say being a part of a women’s or family ERG has made their lives better at work, according to a 2020 survey by Chairman Mom, a San Francisco-based subscription service providing resources to working mothers. Nearly half of women aged 18-44 say the existence and quality of an ERG at a company would impact where they work.

Haynes-McMahan says she was shocked when the leak happened, but she’s grateful to be surrounded by such supportive colleagues during this dystopian time. “I’ll remain in that state of shock probably through the end of this year,” she says, “but I won’t be paralyzed – I’m still focused on action.”

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