Yelp is expected to announce Tuesday that it will cover the expenses of its employees and their spouses who must travel out of state for abortion services, becoming the latest company to respond to a Texas law banning the procedure after about six weeks. of pregnancy.
The online search and review platform, which is based in San Francisco and has more than 4,000 workers, employs just over 200 in Texas, but the benefit extends to employees in other states that could be affected by “ current or future actions that restrict access to covered reproductive health care,” said a company representative.
Last month, Citigroup became the first major bank to reveal that it will pay travel expenses for employees affected by the law in Texas, where it has more than 8,000 workers. Other companies that have announced policies aimed at mitigating the law’s impact include Uber and Lyft, which have offered to pay the legal fees of Texas drivers who could be sued for taking someone to an abortion clinic.
A Texas lawmaker warned Citigroup he would introduce a bill to prevent the bank from writing municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its spending policy. While “backlash gets a lot more attention,” Yelp isn’t worried about how its show, which starts next month, will be received, said Miriam Warren, the company’s director of diversity. She and other executives have received many personal notes thanking Yelp for taking a stand on abortion, she said.
Although the number of employees who may qualify for coverage is small, Yelp took this step, in part, to attract talent in a tough job market. “We want to be able to recruit and retain employees wherever they live,” Ms. Warren said.
“The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to expand your family, is absolutely critical to being able to be successful in the workplace,” he added.
Questions about abortion access or vaccine mandates would once have been considered outside the purview of a corporate leader. But executives are increasingly finding that they have to take a stand on such divisive issues because they often matter so much to their workers and customers.
“I think the question for these companies will really be: Where do they want to be located?” Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College in Vermont, said that she has been tracking the economic effects of reproductive health policies. “Are you located in a place where women have extraordinarily limited reproductive rights? Are you going to be able to recruit women to come there?
Yelp’s travel benefit is part of its long-term efforts on abortion access. In 2018, the company said it would do more to make sure Yelp users clearly understood the difference between abortion clinics and “crisis pregnancy centers,” whose goal is to prevent people from terminating a pregnancy.
“Our user operations team manually reviewed more than 2,000 businesses and clinics to ensure accurate categorization,” Yelp said in a statement. Last year, when Texas passed its abortion law, the company also pledged to double employee donations to organizations fighting the legislation.
Under the new policy, Yelp employees will be able to submit travel expense receipts directly to their health insurance company, Warren said. “So no one else at Yelp will ever know who is accessing this, how or when, and it will be a refund coming directly through the insurance provider,” he said.
The median income on Yelp was $92,000 in 2020, according to regulatory documents, and the companies where employees earn the highest wages are often the most outspoken in opposing legal restrictions on abortion. However, those restrictions disproportionately affect low-income women who can’t afford the extra travel or days off to make the trip, Professor Myers said.
“Wealthy women and college-educated women are not the ones who can’t travel,” she said. “Those women will find a way to get to a place where it’s still legal.”