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Dick’s Sporting Goods’ New Anti-Childbirth Policy Earns Federal Discrimination Complaint

July 14, 2022

A right-leaning legal group sent two letters on Wednesday. The first, to Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Lauren Hobart, alerted her “to apparent mismanagement and violations of federal civil rights laws that threaten the waste of the Company’s assets.” The second, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) area office, asked the EEOC to “open an investigation into DICK’S Sporting Goods, Inc. (the ‘Company’) for engaging in unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

America First Legal Foundation (AFL) objected to the company’s June 24 announcement of “a special employee benefit of ‘up to $4,000’ for an employee or dependent, ‘along with one support person’, to travel for the purpose of aborting an unborn child.” This new benefit, announced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, monetarily compensates employees seeking an abortion, “while denying any equivalent compensation or benefit to a pregnant woman who chooses life.” AFL argued this discrepancy “facially violates” Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978,” which “prohibits discrimination with respect of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of childbirth.”

In summary, AFL’s letter argued that DICK’S Sporting Goods will subsidize a woman aborting her unborn child, but will not subsidize the woman giving birth. And that discrimination violates an explicit provision of a civil rights statute protecting “childbirth.”

As far as it goes, the argument is straightforward. But it’s worth considering why AFL’s letter targeted DICK’S Sporting Goods, out of at least 60 companies which have changed their health care policies to subsidize abortion. The answer is, because DICK’S Sporting Goods has been gratuitously violating Title VII’s prohibitions on employment discrimination in other ways, AFL’s letter alleges.

“Specifically, the Company admits to failing or refusing to hire certain individuals because of their race, color, sex, or national origin. It also admits to limiting, segregating, or classifying employees or applicants for employment in ways which would deprive, or tend to deprive, individuals of employment and promotion opportunities because of their race, color, sex, or national origin,” argued AFL. They listed several “goals” found on the company’s website to achieve percentage benchmarks of employee diversity “by 2025.” If these stated goals have affected hiring practices in any way, it would have been by rejecting otherwise qualified applicants because of their lack of minority characteristics.

Their letter concludes, “the discrimination here necessarily foments contention and resentment. It is ‘odious and destructive.’ It truly ‘is a sordid business, this divvying us up’ by race, color, national origin, or sex. Always has been, always will be. The Company’s admissions, as described above, provide compelling reason for the Commission to open a comprehensive investigation of the company’s hiring, training, compensation, and promotion practices” (internal quotations are citations from Supreme Court opinions).

When Citigroup Bank became the first company to announce abortion travel subsidies in March, FRC’s Director of the Center for Life and Human Dignity Mary Szoch wrote, “If a company’s main concern is the bottom line, encouraging a mom not to have her child makes cents. Pun intended. … Babies cost money. Paying $500 for a plane ticket to another state and $300 for a hotel room is much cheaper than paying for 16 weeks of maternity leave or hiring a new employee. Employees having abortions saves the company money.”

It’s too early to say whether AFL’s letter will provoke the EEOC to investigate DICK’S Sporting Goods, or whether the investigation will find the company in violation of Title VII employment protections. Corporate subsidies for abortion travel have not been around long enough to establish a track record for how commissions or courts will view them, or how companies will defend them. In that sense, AFL’s letter is a test case.

Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.