When the Supreme Court reversed the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed access to abortion for residents of every state, Texas was one of several states whose so-called “trigger law” immediately banned abortion in Texas.
Employers whose benefits had previously covered abortions were left with questions on multiple levels. What was advisable from a business standpoint, and what was legal? There aren’t answers to everything, but as soon as the law changed, Kanarys CEO Mandy Price began receiving calls from clients seeking guidance on how to steer through these unknown waters. After the Supreme Court ruling, the response was immediate.
Immediately, 70 percent of Kanarys’ client questions were about dealing with reproductive health. The company has seen specific issues become popular because of a current cultural shift event, but Roe’s reversal was different. “We’ve not seen that type of response since we started the company,” Price says.
Kanarys provides holistic diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments for companies and benchmarks companies for potential employees. The company also provides consulting and guidance for organizations seeking to improve in these areas. With the end of abortion in Texas, questions around healthcare, childcare, and work schedule are DEI issues for employers.
For Price, her guidance is not about helping companies take a stand on the issue but figuring out the best path for the organization in the current legal climate. “Our goal is not to take a political stance. Our clients are not political in nature,” she says. They have to live with the rulings that come down, and our goal is to help them navigate and understand the landscape from an HR perspective and understand how to support their employees.”
Given the ruling and end of abortion in Texas, Price says companies are looking at their parental leave policies, as abortion being illegal will probably result in more children being born. More unplanned pregnancies might require more short-term disability and increased costs for the employer that subsidizes its employees’ healthcare.
Employees are wondering about their network, and some companies are looking to partner with organizations that can help their employees get the services they want. Dallas-based Match Group is among the companies that have offered to help pay for travel for their employees to receive reproductive healthcare.
Other employers have instituted a third-party hotline where employees can call in and get questions answered without worrying about being tracked or stored within the company’s communications. This helps preserve employees’ privacy without involving a company in offering guidance in what may become a legally murky area.
Employers are having to reevaluate and make adjustments to their health plans. Some are offering a flexible spending account; others are upping their coverage for childbirth to support their employees when there are often more jobs than people. The war for talent means that companies may be willing to spend more in this area to make the position more attractive in the new legal climate.
“There has to be a re-looking at and reimagining of the system given the desire of companies who want to support their employees,” Price says.
Changes to benefit packages aren’t the only questions popping up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. There are now legal issues and concerns to consider when providing healthcare to employees.
Lawmakers in Texas and other states have proposed a law that would punish employers who help their employees get abortions in other states and have also deputized and incentivized the public to turn in anyone involved in providing abortions to residents in Texas. This makes it difficult for employers to answer questions or provide guidance to employees seeking help with reproductive healthcare. Will the employer have to turn an employee who asks about getting an abortion in another state over to law enforcement? How can organizations offer support without running afoul of the law?
Companies must also consider how they will view a potential job candidate who has violated or been convicted of violating their state’s abortion laws. Will they treat it like another conviction that prevents the person from being hired? Will they overlook it or put it in another category, given the change in the law and different rules in different states? These are all questions Price is walking through with clients.
Some organizations partner with a third party like Planned Parenthood to direct all reproductive health-related questions or cover medical or travel expenses. These organizations can provide privacy and protect the employee from future liability. Still others allow their employees to work remotely and move to a state where they can get the healthcare they want.
“It’s extremely tricky, and that’s why we’re trying to provide this guidance, because companies know that it’s a very sensitive issue for many people,” Price says. “What we hear from our clients is that they want to provide the supporting guidance to their employees in a nonpartisan way and want to be able to support their health and wellbeing for them and their families and want to be able to do that in a way where they’re not violating the law.”