© Reuters. The Amazon logo is displayed on a sign outside the company’s LDJ5 sorting center as employees begin voting to unionize a second warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York, United States, on 25 April 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.
By Jeffrey Dastin
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc, the second-largest private U.S. employer, told staff on Monday it would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses a year for non-life-threatening medical treatment, including including abortions, according to a message seen by Reuters.
The decision makes the online retailer the latest company after Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:), Yelp (NYSE:) Inc and others to respond to Republican-backed state laws limiting access to abortion, helping employees circumvent them. It shows how keen companies are to retain and attract talent to places that remain important to their operations despite legal changes impacting employee health.
The U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June in a case that gives its conservative majority a chance to roll back abortion rights or even overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who legalized the procedure nationwide. About two dozen states, including Oklahoma and Alabama, have laws set to limit access to abortion if the Roe ruling is overturned.
The new benefit from Amazon (NASDAQ:), effective retroactive to January 1, applies if an operation is not available within 161 km of an employee’s home and virtual care is not possible , indicates the message of the company. It is open to U.S. employees or covered dependents enrolled in Premera or Aetna health plans, whether they work in a corporate office or warehouse.
The refunds Amazon announced on Monday are not specific to abortion. They also provide for other non-lethal treatments such as cardiology, cell gene therapies, and addiction disorder treatment services. Separately, Amazon is offering up to $10,000 in annual travel reimbursements for life-threatening issues.
The news came the day Amazon stopped offering paid leave to U.S. employees diagnosed with COVID-19, instead giving them five days of excused unpaid leave. Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York will also have their votes counted on Monday, which will determine whether the establishment will unionize. A group of current and former workers known as the Amazon Labor Union has been pushing for better pay and job security.