Considering a Corporate Response to the Post-Roe v. Wade Workplace: 5 Things to Do and Not Do
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has forced companies to grapple with how they can respond to this sensitive subject. While some companies have made public announcements declaring their support of reproductive health, other companies may be hesitant to do so.
Your company’s response will be unique to your mission and values, but, regardless of your approach, one thing remains true; this trending, polarized, mainstream issue has pushed its way into the corporate landscape, demanding a timely and intentional response.
While LCW’s expertise is not in women’s health or reproductive rights, we are experts in workplace inclusion. We’ve leveraged this expertise to compile a list of five suggested things to do and avoid as you navigate how to address SCOTUS’s decision and maintain an inclusive work environment.
We know that this resource only begins to ground the work ahead for your organization; let us know how LCW can help support you as you navigate the post-Roe v. Wade workplace.
1. Don’t hold internal forums for employees to discuss their views of Roe v. Wade.
Your company may be inclined to bring individual contributors or managers together to learn how they feel about this decision and gauge the impact it is having on their lives or work performance. While this gesture is well intentioned, it also opens the door to polarized interactions that could create bias between people going forward. If you are interested in gathering feedback on how you can support your employees, consider using an anonymous survey. This approach may allow you to assess your employees’ needs without polarizing your workforce.
2. Don’t be vague about your intentions.
If you decide to engage your employees to learn more about how you can support them following the Supreme Court’s decision, be clear regarding your intentions. Make sure employees know why you are asking specific questions and what you will do with the information you gather. Also let the employees know what you will not be able to do to help manage expectations. Communicating your intentions will ensure employees are more comfortable answering authentically and will ensure there’s a common understanding of what support they can realistically expect from your company.
3. Don’t feel that the policies that you develop in response to this issue need to be applicable to every employee.
Inclusive workplaces consider the needs of all their employees and design solutions that support well-being, health, and balance, while recognizing that not every policy serves all employees equally. Certain policies provide benefit to one group while not immediately proving value to other groups. For example, your company may have a time off benefit for new parents. Employees that are not parents may not benefit from this policy, but it still exists to benefit those that are parents. Consider this precedent when exploring ways to support your employees in this moment.
4. Don’t ignore the importance of this decision in how it impacts your current systems.
We have collectively entered a new era which requires you to reexamine the ways employees are able to leverage your systems to fit new needs. Considering our new reality, be sure to reexamine systems like PTO policies or sick policies that may require doctor’s notes for approval to determine if they are inclusive of the needs of employees and partners in today’s workplace.
5. Don’t feel that you must solve this problem for your employees.
At the end of the day, this remains a very private, personal matter not unlike other family planning and time off policies. While some companies may be positioned to provide immediate solutions for their employees (like providing financial assistance for employees that need to travel out of state to receive medical care), other companies may not be positioned to engage in this active support. No matter the immediate solution you may provide your employees, you can still ensure your policies support your employees and business needs, so they are afforded the opportunity to make this personal decision for themselves and their families.
1. Re-examine your time off policies.
It may be especially valuable to reexamine your time off policies. Think how your company might enhance existing policies to ensure they are inclusive of the medical reasons employees may need to take time off for this experience or any other medical or family emergency. You want to avoid creating approval processes that require employees to discuss their circumstances with numerous managers and human resource associates.
2. Champion confidentiality for all employees when it involves, family, medical, or personal matters.
As is the case with all medical information, privacy and confidentiality is paramount, but protecting employees’ personal information is even more important following this decision. Work with the appropriate stakeholders to make sure you are handling these matters on a “need-to-know” basis and hold people accountable for maintaining confidentiality, respect, and kindness. You might also consider how you can communicate the ways you are keeping this information private with your employees, as this might be a common concern in this moment.
3. Consider a well-crafted, anonymous survey if your company is interested in discovering specific employee needs.
Think carefully about what information you need and what you will do after receiving the survey results. Stay away from questions that ask employees how they feel about the decision or any other questions that do not pertain to your health care plan, PTO policies, family planning, and privacy policies. Consider asking your Employee Assistance Program for additional guidance and resources to address uncovered employee needs.
4. Recognize that you will have employees that support either side of this issue.
Organizations that are inclusive are welcoming of employees that have either positive or negative reactions to this decision. To be mindful of this, be sure that you reinforce codes of conduct and organizational values that protect all employees from harassment, unfair scrutiny, and disrespectful behavior.
5. Encourage employees to refrain from highly charged, private, or political conversations while in the workplace.
At LCW we believe in having brave conversations about sensitive topics. While these conversations have transformational power in structured environments, they also threaten to retraumatize and polarize in unstructured formats. Sometimes well-intentioned discussions in an unstructured environment transform into conflict as personal beliefs collide. Consider reminding your people managers that employees will hold varying positions of this complex issue and that they need to ensure employees are respecting one another’s position.