Yelp Will Pay for Employees to Travel for Abortion Access

Yelp is expected to announce Tuesday that it will cover expenses for its employees and their spouses who must travel out of state for abortion care, becoming the latest company to respond to a Texas law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The online search and review platform, which is based in San Francisco and has more than 4,000 workers, employs just over 200 in Texas, but the benefit extends to employees in other states who might be affected by “current or future action that restricts access to covered reproductive health care,” a company representative said.

Last month, Citigroup became the first major bank to disclose that it will pay travel costs for employees affected by the law in Texas, where it has over 8,000 workers. Other companies that have announced policies aimed at mitigating the impact of the law include Uber and Lyft, which offered to pay legal fees for Texas drivers who could be sued for taking someone to an abortion clinic.

A Texas legislator warned Citigroup that he would introduce a bill to prevent the bank from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its expense policy. While “backlash gets a lot more attention,” Yelp is not concerned about how its program, which starts next month, will be received, said Miriam Warren, the company’s chief diversity officer. She and other executives have received many personal notes thanking Yelp for taking a stand on abortion, she said.

Though the number of employees who may be entitled to coverage is small, Yelp took this step, in part, to attract talent in a tough labor market. “We want to be able to recruit and retain employees wherever they might be living,” Ms. Warren said.

“The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to extend your family, is absolutely fundamental to being able to be successful in the workplace,” she added.

Questions about abortion access or vaccine mandates would have once been considered outside the realm of a corporate leader. But executives increasingly find they have to take a stand on such divisive issues because they are often of great importance to their workers and customers.

“I think the question for these companies is really going to be: Where do you want to locate?” said Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College in Vermont who has been tracking the economic effects of reproductive health policies. “Do you locate in a place where women have extraordinarily limited reproductive rights? Are you going to be able to recruit women to come there?”

Yelp’s travel benefit is part of its longer-term efforts on abortion access. In 2018, the company said it would do more to make sure Yelp users clearly understood the difference between abortion clinics and “crisis pregnancy centers,” which aim to steer people away from terminating a pregnancy.

“Our User Operations team manually reviewed more than 2,000 businesses and clinics to ensure accurate categorization,” Yelp said in a statement. Last year, when Texas passed its abortion law, the company also pledged to double-match employee donations to organizations that were fighting the legislation.

Under the new policy, Yelp employees will be able to submit receipts for travel expenses directly to their health insurance company, Ms. Warren said. “So no one else at Yelp is ever going to know who is accessing this, or how or when, and it will be a reimbursement that comes through the insurance provider directly,” she said.

The median income at Yelp was $92,000 in 2020, according to regulatory filings, and companies where employees earn higher wages are often the most vocally opposed to legal restrictions on abortion. Yet those restrictions disproportionately affect lower-income women who cannot afford the extra travel or the days off work to make the trip, Professor Myers said.

“Affluent women and women with college educations aren’t the ones who can’t travel,” she said. “Those women will find a way to get to a place where it’s still legal.”

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