Salesforce is offering its Texas employees an “escape route” in response to the Lone Star state’s decision to enact into law the Heartbeat Act.
According to media reports, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced on Slack the offer to relocate Texas employees on Sept. 10 for families who are concerned about the ability to access abortions.
“When our employees complain, we just say to our employees, if you don’t like it, we’ll move you,” said Benioff in an interview with ABC. “You just tell us where you want to move. We have offices all over the world. It’s completely up to you. We’ll just give our employees the ability to move if they don’t like where they are.”
Texas Senate Bill 8 became law on Sept. 1. Also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, it prevents abortions “after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat.” It defines a heartbeat as a “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.”
Without directly opposing the Heartbeat Act in his Slack message, Benioff also expanded his relocation offer to include Salesforce employees who live in other states.
“These are incredibly personal issues that directly impact many of us — especially women,” Benioff reportedly told his employees. “We recognize and respect that we all have deeply held and different perspectives. As a company, we stand with all of our women at Salesforce and everywhere.”
Despite criticism of the new law, Texas Values, a local advocacy group, believes anti-abortion policies are good for business.
“It’s these pro-family policies that make the state of Texas great for business,” said Mary Elizabeth Castle, senior policy advisor with Texas Values. She went on to say that businesses like jumping on board with the perceived popular political opinions, but “at the end of the day [they] just can’t resist being in Texas because of our strong policies and values.”
The Heartbeat Act also allows people to sue those who perform or assist women in obtaining abortions after a heartbeat is detected. According to Healthline, a beating heart can be heard at six to seven weeks of gestation.
“It’s disappointing that these large companies are making these political statements [and] moral statements against life,” Castle told Dallas Express. “We saw this with the Austin City Council last week when they were trying to implore the […] community in Austin to not enforce the Heartbeat Act.”
On Sept. 30, the Austin City Council approved a controversial resolution that allows the legal department to write ‘friend of the court’ briefs to support lawsuits that challenge SB 8.
Benioff reacted to the media’s interest in his decision to offer his employees relocation funds out of Texas with a Sept. 22 message on Twitter that said, “Why is it such a big deal when a CEO says that if their employees are being targeted, they will support them & offer them safe haven? Isn’t that what all CEOs do—stand up for their employees’ human rights? And, always have their employees backs?”
Castle disagrees with Benioff’s characterization of the new abortion law as targeting anyone specifically.
“That’s very interesting,” she said. “At the base level, it really doesn’t target anything. Its intention is to protect pre-born children. The only people you could say it does target are abortion physicians or people who perform abortions or work at abortion clinics. There’s really no one else that he could say the law actually targets.”
This is not the first time that the software marketing company leader has offered politically motivated incentives.
Six years ago, CNN reported that Benioff gifted relocation funds of up to $50,000 for employees who asked to leave the state of Indiana because of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which civil rights groups and LGBTQ persons opposed because they alleged it would allow businesses in the state to deny them services.
Also known as Senate Bill 101, the Indiana law allows companies and persons to use the free exercise of religion as a defense in legal proceedings.
“My job as the CEO is to be an advocate for my employees and to be an advocate for my customers,” Benioff told CNN’s Poppy Harlow at the time.
CNBC further reported that Salesforce currently employs more than 75,000 people worldwide, and Dallas is one of its sixteen U.S. locations where an estimated 2,000 staffers work.
“Salesforce is constantly rated as one of the best places to work in the world and that’s probably because employees know that we have their back,” Benioff said. “We’re going to make sure that we are always watching out for them. And that’s incredibly important. It doesn’t matter what city or state or country that we operate in. Employees have the same needs, which is they want to know their employer is going to be there when there’s a problem. In this case, the employees just want to make sure that we’re able to support them and help them during a time of crisis. Many of the employees just want to move and we’ll let them go anywhere they want to go.”
Sarah Franklin, director of marketing with Salesforce, did not respond to requests for comment regarding whether Benioff is offering to move his employees to a state with more permissive abortion laws or move his employees out of cities that vote to defund the police and whether other employees are relocated free of charge for any reason aside from the abortion laws in their state.
“We think that pro-life policies are good for Texas, good for the economy and we hope that businesses actually see this Heartbeat law as something that helps the state and to be a reason to locate to Texas,” Castle said in an interview. “Texas has always proven to be a strong location for all companies, and businesses and for people to live. Protecting life is just icing on the cake. In addition to being a great place to live and make a living, Texas is also a great place to protect preborn children and give them the right to live.”