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Point of view: Difficult choices after Roe



U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade leaving companies and their leadership facing difficult choices. Regardless of what point of view an individual may have on the subject of abortion law, there is no doubt that CEOs and their boards now have to navigate some complicated employment and benefit issues and associated reputational and legal risks.

Following the leak of the draft opinion in early May and following the final Supreme Court ruling on 24 June, some companies announced plans to provide extended travel, accommodation and other benefits to their employees seeking access to health care services they may not be able to few in their own state. Others were cautious and remained silent. Still others decided not to publicly share changes to benefit plans but instead communicated directly with their staff. A large number of financial and professional service companies were among the early respondents. Several major insurance brokers are believed to have sent internal memos to their employees and assured them that they would extend the health benefits to travel expenses for health care outside the state, including reproductive procedures.

In recent times, issues of social justice have become a priority for companies to address. Companies, including brokers and insurance companies, are increasingly accountable to their employees, policyholders, shareholders and other stakeholders in a range of issues that fall under the umbrella of environment, social and governance. There are robust discussions and statements on various topics, including climate change, diversity and inclusion, racial justice and behavior in the workplace.

For example, the widespread protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in the Minneapolis police arrest in May 2020 prompted senior executives in companies in many sectors, including insurance brokers, to make statements deploring racism and advocating for gender equality. Many brokers went further and implemented changes in their companies in the months that followed.

Examples like this show that the insurance industry, like other sectors, can take the step not only to support the health and well-being of employees and their families but to lead the way. When companies try to attract different talent, the measures they take ̵

1; or fail at – in all sorts of difficult subjects will be examined. This is especially true in a case that can so directly affect their ability to employ and retain women and that is based on their diversity, equality and inclusion efforts.

Of course, these measures do not come without risk. In the case of Roe v. Wade, Companies that take a stand can face a whole host of reputational and legal risks such as possible backlash from customers or employees, problems navigating patchwork government laws and related policy implications, difficulties in maintaining employee privacy and challenges in the form of shareholder proposals regarding reproductive benefits. Being quiet also involves risks.

There are no easy answers, and as with other complex issues, companies will need to measure their employees’ reaction, review their employment policies, closely monitor related laws and regulations, and be prepared for any lawsuits as they wrestle with what is the best way forward for their organization and its employees when they want to do what they think is right.


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