Skip to main content

Meta tells employees to stop discussing abortion at work

Meta tells employees to stop discussing abortion at work


Employees say the stance runs counter to Meta policies on discussing Black Lives Matter and trans rights

Share this story

The Meta logo looks like the symbol for infinity.
The Meta sign outside the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

A Meta executive told employees on Thursday that they are prohibited from talking about abortion on Workplace, an internal version of Facebook, citing “an increased risk” that the company is seen as a “hostile work environment.”

The policy, which Meta put in place in 2019, prohibits employees from discussing “opinions or debates about abortion being right or wrong, availability or rights of abortion, and political, religious, and humanitarian views on the topic,” according to a section of the company’s internal “Respectful Communication Policy” seen by The Verge. Some employees have called on management to do away with the policy in the aftermath of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, arguing that the ban is at odds with employees being allowed to talk “respectfully” about issues like Black Lives Matter, immigration, and trans rights.

Meta calls abortion a “unique topic” that can “leave people feeling like they’re being targeted”

During an all-hands meeting with employees Thursday, Meta’s VP of HR, Janelle Gale, said that abortion was “the most divisive and reported topic” by employees on Workplace. She said that “even if people are respectful, and they’re attempting to be respectful about their view on abortion, it can still leave people feeling like they’re being targeted based on their gender or religion,” according to a recording of her comments obtained by The Verge. “It’s the one unique topic that kind of trips that line on a protected class pretty much in every instance.”

A spokesperson for Meta didn’t have a comment for this story.

Most large companies have yet to clearly state their stance on abortion bans, though several have signaled their opposition. Amazon and Tesla have said they would cover some expenses for pregnant employees who need to travel for an abortion, and Salesforce told employees in September that it would assist with moving expenses if they wanted to leave Texas due to its abortion ban. Lyft and Uber have promised to cover legal bills for drivers who are sued under state laws for driving a person seeking an abortion. One of the strongest stances taken has been by Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who argued in an op-ed that “companies need to take a stand on reproductive rights.”

After Politico published the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion seeking to overturn abortion rights at a federal level, Meta’s number-two executive, Sheryl Sandberg, called abortion “one of our most fundamental rights” on her public Facebook page. “Every woman, no matter where she lives, must be free to choose whether and when she becomes a mother,” she wrote. “Few things are more important to women’s health and equality.”

The policy has caused division among employees

But Meta proceeded to push back on discussion of abortion internally soon thereafter. The day after Sandberg’s public comments, one of Meta’s most senior executives, Naomi Gleit, wrote in an internal post seen by The Verge explaining why the company had placed restrictions around discussion of abortion. “At work, there are many sensitivities around this topic, which makes it difficult to discuss on Workplace,” Gleit wrote in the memo, which was earlier reported by The Washington Post. She said that employees were only allowed to discuss abortion at work “with a trusted colleague in a private setting (e.g. live, chat, etc.)” and in a “listening session with a small group of up to 5 like-minded people to show solidarity.” She encouraged employees to use Meta’s social apps to share their views in their personal capacity, and that the company “will continue to offer our employees access to reproductive healthcare in the U.S. regardless of where they live.”

The policy banning discussion of abortion has caused division among employees in recent weeks, with some supporting it and others sharing their frustration about having posts on the topic removed, according to screenshots of Workplace posts and comments seen by The Verge. During the all-hands meeting led by Sandberg, Gale, and other execs Thursday, several comments about the policy were posted by employees underneath the livestream and removed as the meeting progressed.

In an internal post earlier this month titled “Support & Silence,” a female employee who has been at the company for 10 years wrote that the policy had led her to feel a “strong sense of silence and isolation on Workplace.” She wrote that an earlier version of her post had been taken down and that the new version had “much of the content removed.”

“The same policy explicitly allows us to discuss similarly sensitive issues and movements including immigration, trans rights, climate change, Black Lives Matter, gun rights / gun control, and vaccination,” she wrote. “The argument about why our policy treats one issue quite differently than other sensitive issues feels flimsy and unconvincing to me. The entire process of dealing with the Respectful Communication policy, being told why my post is violating, and crafting this new post has felt dehumanizing and dystopian.”

Update May 20th, 10AM ET: Added that The Washington Post first reported the memo by Naomi Gleit to Meta employees on the abortion policy.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Striking out

Andrew WebsterTwo hours ago
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew Webster4:28 PM UTC
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.