- Starbucks is expanding healthcare benefits to reimburse employees who must travel more than 100 miles to access abortion or gender-affirming procedures, the company announced Monday. This policy applies to all employees enrolled in Starbucks' benefits plan, as well as the dependents of employees, though it's not clear when it will take effect.
- This program was partly motivated by concerns spurred by a leaked draft opinion of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Sara Kelly, the company's acting executive vice president for partner resources, wrote in a letter to employees.
- The company didn't clarify whether it would offer support to employees who face legal trouble for seeking abortions or gender-affirming care, or which forms of travel expenses are eligible for reimbursement.
Starbucks has pledged to give employees "access to quality healthcare" regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court's review of Roe v. Wade, reflecting the company's progressive record on wide-ranging worker benefits.
The coffee chain's insurance plans began covering gender reassignment surgery in 2013, and expanded that coverage in 2018 to include additional treatment. Starbucks wrote in a separate statement published on Monday that it provides free, confidential advice for workers seeking medical treatment in or outside of their states through its Starbucks Advocates program.
"When actions impact your access to healthcare, we will work on a way to make sure you feel supported," Kelly wrote.
The coffee chain's benefits announcement follows rollbacks of transgender rights and services in several states. As of March, state lawmakers have proposed 238 pieces of legislation that would curtail LGBTQ rights, NBC News reports, and many of these bills target the transgender community's ability to access gender-affirming healthcare.
States have also begun to enact more restrictions around abortion. Texas, for example, passed a bill last year that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and enabled private citizens to sue individuals who assisted patients in obtaining abortions. And earlier this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order to the state's Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of minors who receive gender-affirming care, classifying that form of healthcare as child abuse.
Starbucks appears to be the only major restaurant chain to provide travel reimbursements for abortion and gender-affirming care. Major firms adjacent to or outside of the market, however, such as Microsoft, Uber, Yelp and Apple, have made similar commitments. Starbucks is often a first-mover and influencer when it comes to benefits in the restaurant space, so it's possible that additional medical travel reimbursement policies could crop up as a result.