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September 29, 2021

Texas abortion law puts Big Tech HR policies to the test

By GlobalData Thematic Research

On 1 September, Texas imposed the US’s most restrictive measure on abortions. Senate Bill 8 bans abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy. In addition, the law allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion for up to $10,000.

A little more than a week after the bill was passed, Salesforce announced that it would assist its employees and their families if they wanted to leave Texas. However, Salesforce fell short of recognising the potential of the law to breach confidentiality by exposing the religious and political perspectives of employees and clients. Due to the nature of Senate Bill 8, appropriate corporate action is complex.

Salesforce’s Texas relocation support may do more harm than good

Senate Bill 8 allows a $10,000 civil lawsuit to be brought against anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, raising concerns around trust within a business. There is a risk that it could turn colleagues or clients of women considering abortions into potential spies. The legislation is also likely to cause distress for Salesforce’s pro-choice employees working in Texas.

A survey conducted by American thinktank the Pew Research Center (PRC) in May 2021 found that 59% of US adults believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 39% thinking abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. These views have remained constant over the past few years, according to the PRC’s data.

The Bill’s restrictiveness makes corporate action difficult

The law has forced companies in the state to consider how they should support their employees. Salesforce said it would assist its employees and their families if they wanted to leave Texas. However, this risks compromising employee privacy as women would have to make public their decision to seek an abortion. Salesforce prides itself on being a socially sustainable company. Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff has publicly opposed Georgia’s voting rights bills and North Carolina’s bathroom law.

At GlobalData, we track company performance on environmental, social, and governance factors. GlobalData’s social sustainability approach looks at contributing factors like human rights, diversity and inclusion, health and safety, and community impact. When formulating policies, leading companies that acknowledge social issues will be long-term winners.

Salesforce’s actions in Texas are a positive move, but the issue is extremely emotive, and it does pose other challenges as employees might not want to make this issue public and may not wish to discuss it with HR.

It is commendable that Salesforce has acknowledged its employees’ needs beyond the workplace, but there is no easy solution here. This legislation will undoubtedly create issues for corporate HR teams. The law’s restrictiveness and the penalties involved make appropriate positive corporate action difficult for even the most socially sustainable companies.