For several years and counting, coastal tech workers have been flocking to Texas cities like Austin and Houston in search of jobs and a lower cost of living. Now their employers are giving them the green light to leave.
After the Texas legislature earlier this month passed a new statewide abortion law, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, companies large and small have been offering to come to the aid of employees who reside on the state. Among other things, they're springing for their legal fees and offering to pay their relocation expenses should they wish to leave the state.
One such employer is Chris Boehlke, principal at Bospar, a San Francisco-based public relations firm. She says she saw too many professional women who, upon giving birth, had to decide between being a hands-on PR professional or a hands-on mother, and feels strongly that women should have the option of choice.
"We're appalled by what has happened in Texas," says Boehlke. "It's a giant step backward for everyone." So, the company recently announced it would cover the relocation expenses for any employee wishing to move from the state. Six of its employees--or roughly 10 percent of the company's staff--currently live in Texas, and the company is looking to increase its workforce by 20 to 30 percent in the coming months.
Bospar joins a chorus of other companies launching similar policies. On September 10, Salesforce informed its Texas-based employees that the San Francisco-based software company would help relocate those who may be concerned about their ability to access reproductive care. Taking a different tack, ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft both announced that they would pay legal costs for any drivers who are sued for transporting women to get abortions, and dating company Bumble reportedly announced a fund to help women in the state get safe abortions.
While these policies may sound reactive, it's hard to understate the deleterious effect of measures like this law and other missteps on the business climate in the state, say business owners. Solugen, a chemicals company in Houston, said it plans to open a new research and development facility outside of the state because its social policies are making it difficult to recruit employees.
"We've come to the conclusion after talking to lots of candidates that they want to join Solugen but they don't feel comfortable coming to Texas, so for us it's become a no-brainer to have R&D facilities elsewhere," CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti told Axios.
The Texas law, which went into effect September 1, bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, well before most women know they're pregnant. The law does not make exceptions for rape or incest. It also establishes a first-of-its-kind bounty system that allows plaintiffs to collect cash judgments of $10,000, and legal fees, from those they accuse of having illegal abortions. A day after the law passed, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block it.
Other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio, have also passed similar legislation that bans abortion once cardiac activity can be detected, but those state laws have been held up by legal challenges and have not yet been implemented. Boehlke notes that if other states follow suit and impose similar abortion policy that takes effect, the company will cover expenses for those relocation reasons as well.
"[Our policy] applies to current and future staff, and if any other states do something similar -- we'll do the same there as well," says Boehlke.