- Union Square Hospitality Group will reimburse employees up to $1,500 in expenses incurred by employees who need to travel to access abortion, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last week, Restaurant Business reported Thursday.
- Some legal experts have said abortion reimbursement benefits may cause legal trouble for companies operating in certain states that have criminalized the procedure.
- Starbucks, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber, Yelp, Impossible Foods and other companies in or adjacent to the foodservice industry previously announced some form of reimbursement for abortion-related expenses.
Although Union Square Hospitality Group is based in New York state, where abortion is limited after 24 weeks of pregnancy, Restaurant Business reported the fine-dining company had some corporate employees who lived outside of the state, and noted employees may have dependents living in states with trigger laws banning abortion, which went into effect when Roe v. Wade was overturned.
The Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization threw the question of abortion restrictions back to states. The opinion overturned almost 50 years of jurisprudence, and drew condemnation from the international community and a number of American businesses.
At least 13 states have trigger laws designed to ban abortion, though some laws, like the one in Texas, will not take effect for some weeks. Up to 26 states are likely to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
USHG’s abortion reimbursement plan is similar to plans announced by Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber and Yelp. Starbucks was the first national chain to announce it would provide reimbursement for abortion related travel to employees enrolled in its health plan. Yelp, DoorDash and Starbucks all announced their reimbursement plans ahead of the actual decision, with Yelp announcing it in April, and the other two joining Yelp after a draft of the majority decision in the Dobbs case leaked in May.
It is unclear whether these benefits will incur legal trouble for companies, as states like Texas have passed snitch laws enabling residents to sue providers, and people who help women get abortions. State laws also target organizations which ‘aid and abet’ abortion. According to law firm Morgan Lewis, only Texas and Oklahoma laws “explicitly classify employer coverage or reimbursement of abortion services banned in those states through insurance or benefit plans as aiding and abetting unlawful abortion.”
NBC reported Texas lawmakers have threatened legal action against companies offering abortion travel reimbursement. Blue states have begun to respond with laws of their own.The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this week calling such laws an interference with the constitution of the commonwealth, while Gov. Charlie Baker issued an order barring state authorities from assisting in investigations by other states into reproductive healthcare in Massachusetts.
Only seven states do not place gestational limits on abortion: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, alongside the District of Columbia.
According to the Restaurant Opportunities Center’s 2020 State of Restaurant Workers report some 54% of restaurant workers are women and the median age of restaurant workers was around 28, much lower than the total workforce’s median age of 41. These demographics factors indicate foodservice workers could be disproportionately impacted by the end of abortion in many states.