Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Opens Discrimination Probes into Companies That Fund Abortion Travel

Andrea Lucas, a Republican Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has opened up at least three discrimination probes into companies providing abortion-related travel benefits.

According to five attorneys with knowledge of the situation, Lucas is deploying a rarely used EEOC procedure to target these companies, which have yet to be named, without the approval of the rest of commission. The EEOC commissioner alleges that the companies are discriminating against pregnant and disabled workers by treating abortion-seeking employees uniquely, Bloomberg Law reported Monday afternoon.

The agency investigation may be the first federal challenge to the slew of corporate abortion-benefit policies offered in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Many companies have begun offering employees in states with restrictive abortion regimes subsidies for childcare, travel, and paid time off of work to get the procedure out-of-state. Tesla, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Lyft are among the most notable firms that have unveiled such policies. However, there are over 120 large American employers that now offer abortion-related travel coverage.

Lucas was appointed under President Donald Trump and overlapped with fellow Trump-appointed general counsel, Sharon Fast Gustafson. Both Lucas and Gustafson were known to prioritize workplace religious rights, helping pass new guidelines without any Democratic support during the Trump administration.

Gustafson was fired by the Biden administration for refusing to vacate her position in March 2021, but she has continued her activism.

In late October, the Littler Workplace Policy Institute–an organization that specializes in labor and employment law–sent the EEOC a letter informing them that Gustafson was threatening employers offering abortion-travel coverage.

“Ms. Gustafson is using her former position to intimidate employers who provide or are considering providing a benefit that is otherwise legal under Federal law in furtherance of her own law practice…and personal beliefs misleading and intimidating employers who lawfully provide travel benefits under their health plans for those who need medical care that is not available in their own states,” Littler’s letter to the EEOC reads.

Lucas’s latest approach to opening fugitive investigations mirrors that of Gustafson’s extracurricular efforts earlier this year, Bloomberg reports.

If the companies Lucas targeted don’t respond to the complaints, the EEOC can elect to bring a lawsuit against them, although such action would likely require broader support from commissioners.

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