What the Roe Decision Can Teach Companies About Employee Communication

According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, brand responses to societal events such as the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and climate change impact consumer brand choices more than personal life events. Yet the overturning of Roe v. Wade last month challenged consumer expectations of brand responses to major political events. 

With more than a month between the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion and the final Roe v. Wade decision, brands had ample time to plan a response to the loss of abortion rights across America. 

Despite this, only 10% of brands chose to make a public statement after the decision was made final. Why? 

Should You Take a Stance?

Top executives are uneasy taking a stance on abortion rights because they know it is a divisive topic. They fear it will put their business at risk, alienate their customer base, or divide their employees internally. 

Many companies headquartered in states that enacted trigger laws after the ruling, like Ohio, are some of the least vocal. 

However, other companies have decided to release public statements as a way to make their opinions known and also to reassure their employees that they are protected. 

One such company is Dick’s Sporting Goods, who announced after the ruling they will provide employees with up to $4,000 for travel-related expenses for employees seeking abortions. 

Shortly after the decision, Company President and CEO Lauren Hobart posted to her Linkedin page, saying, “We recognize people feel passionately about this topic – and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision. 

However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them.”

The decision to make public statements on political issues affecting your customers or employees requires a comprehensive look into what response your company may receive after doing so. 

But at minimum, companies should relay a statement to their employees, especially on decisions that impact healthcare access.

What Guidance Do We Offer Brands?

First, companies should let their employees know they acknowledge a variety of opinions on the issue, but this will not prevent them from taking a position. Especially in states with trigger laws, companies should ensure their employees that they have options to receive care out-of-state if needed. 

Second, companies should acknowledge the importance of their female workforce, and the repercussions to preventing their female employees from receiving adequate care. 

This could include offering travel assistance like Dick’s Sporting Goods, or investing in long term strategies such as ramping up dependent care benefits, offering childcare services, or implementing generous maternity leave policies, which all reflect on a company’s investment in its female workforce.

This also is a reflection on a company’s long-term investment in its current and future female leadership. The gender wage gap is especially noticeable in women of childbearing age, so giving employees the safeguard of paid leave, dependent benefits and more, a company is signaling its commitment to long term success for their female employees.

Last, whether a company chooses to deliver a public statement or only share internally, it is important to signal to their employees as soon as possible a commitment to an inclusive environment that is built around long-term investment in its workforce.

 This statement should not project or put pressure on a certain belief system, especially one as morally sensitive as abortion rights. This will ultimately create a strong foundation of support, trust, and loyalty that reflects outward on your brand, and prepares you for the next event.

More About Our Firm

Emerson Street Media is a trusted Washington, DC based public relations agency focused on tailoring results for you, and can help your company build out its own unique response to any situation. By leveraging our capabilities and expertise along with a team of communications specialists from around the country, we can develop and execute your comprehensive communications plan, produce an impactful video that will compel action, lead you through a crisis and so much more.