Meta told its workers on Friday not to openly discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion on wide-reaching communication channels inside the company, people with knowledge of the situation said.
Managers at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, cited a company policy that put “strong guardrails around social, political and sensitive conversations” in the workplace, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said managers had pointed employees to a May 12 company memo, which was issued after a draft opinion on potentially overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked from the Supreme Court.
In the May 12 memo, which was obtained by The New York Times, Meta said that “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment,” so it had taken “the position that we would not allow open discussion.”
The policy has led to frustration and anger, the people said. On Friday, some contacted colleagues and managers to express their dissent with the company’s stance. Managers were advised to be empathetic but neutral on the topic, while messages that violated the policy in team chats were removed, two people said. In the past, Meta employees often used internal communication forums to discuss sociopolitical issues and current events.
Ambroos Vaes, a Meta software engineer, said in a post on LinkedIn that he was saddened that employees were “not allowed” to widely discuss the Supreme Court ruling. On the company’s internal communication platform, “moderators swiftly remove posts or comments mentioning abortion,” he wrote. “Limited discussion can only happen in groups of up to 20 employees who follow a set playbook, but not out in the open.”
A Meta spokesman declined to comment.
Friday’s action was the latest attempt by Meta to clamp down on contentious internal debates after years of employee unrest and leaks to media outlets. In 2020, the company updated its Respectful Communication Policy to limit certain discussions at work, according to the May 12 memo.
The changes followed internal strife over the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis two years ago. Meta employees were told that they were no longer allowed to discuss political or social issues in companywide channels on Workplace, the company’s employee message board.
In October, Meta also made some Workplace groups private after Frances Haugen, a former employee, leaked thousands of internal research documents to the media. Employees bemoaned the loss of openness and collaboration, according to comments seen by The Times.
In the May 12 memo, Meta said it had previously allowed open discussion of abortion at work but later recognized that it had led to “significant disruptions in the workplace given unique legal complexities and the number of people affected by the issue.” The policy had led to a high volume of complaints to the human resources department, and many internal posts regarding abortion were taken down for violating the company’s harassment policy, the memo said.
Employees struggling with the Supreme Court’s ruling were directed to support one another in one-to-one conversations or in small groups of “like-minded colleagues,” the memo said.
On Friday, to address employee concerns about the Supreme Court ruling, Meta said it would reimburse travel expenses “to the extent permitted by law” for employees who needed “to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief operating officer, who is leaving the company this fall, said in a Facebook post on Friday that “the Supreme Court’s ruling jeopardizes the health and the lives of millions of girls and women across the country.”
“It threatens to undo the progress women have made in the workplace and to strip women of economic power,” she wrote. “It will make it harder for women to achieve their dreams.”