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Levi Strauss Says Protecting Reproductive Rights Is a ‘Business Imperative’

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) is lending its voice to fight for women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. following the unprecedented leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests the court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared legal abortion a constitutional right.

“Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees. That means protecting reproductive rights,” the company stated in a blog post published Wednesday.

Politico obtained and published the draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito Monday night, igniting protests and fundraising campaigns for local reproductive rights advocates, and renewed calls by Democrats to pass a federal law to protect abortion rights. A 2021 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of Americans said Roe should be upheld.

In the blog post, the company highlighted how reproductive health care including abortion has been a “critical factor” in the workplace gains women have made over the past 50 years, and how it would affect businesses internally. Women make up 58 percent of its global workforce, and the company noted that in recent years, employees “have expressed to leadership their growing alarm over the rollback of all forms of reproductive care.”

LS&Co. said further restricting or criminalizing access to safe abortions would jeopardize that progress and disproportionately affect women of color and companies’ efforts to advance diverse hiring practices.

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“Women in some states would have fewer rights than women in others, and our country would be consigned to a more unjust and inequitable future. What’s more, companies would need different health policies for different locations—including coverage for time off and travel across state lines—to ensure employees can access reproductive health care,” the company stated.

LS&Co.’s current employee benefits plan includes eligibility for reimbursement for healthcare-related travel expenses for services not available in their state, including those related to reproductive health care and abortion. A process is also in place for part-time hourly workers and employees not part of the benefits plan to seek reimbursement.

Just last week, LS&Co. president and CEO Chip Bergh spoke on the topic of being a business leader during a challenging two years that has seen a global health crisis, a racial reckoning, an attempt to overthrow a valid presidential election, and war when he received AAFA’s “Person of the Year” award.

LS&Co.’s position on protecting reproductive rights aligns with its advocacy for national paid family and medical leave and equal protections for all. In 2020, the company announced that it would begin to offer up to eight weeks paid time off to care for an ill family member for all U.S. corporate and benefits-eligible retail employees. In 2016, it updated its benefits plan so hourly and salaried U.S. employees with benefits, regardless of gender, can take up to eight weeks of paid parental leave. The paid parental leave benefit will supplement existing short-term disability benefits for birth mothers.