Amazon to reimburse U.S. employees who travel for abortions, other treatments

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The Amazon logo is displayed on a sign outside the company's LDJ5 sortation center, as employees begin voting to unionize a second warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York City, U.S. April 25, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

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May 2 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), the second-largest U.S. private employer, told its staff on Monday it will pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses annually for non-life threatening medical treatments including abortions, according to a message seen by Reuters.

The decision makes the online retailer the latest company after Citigroup Inc (C.N), Yelp Inc (YELP.N) and others to respond to Republican-backed state laws curbing abortion access, helping employees bypass them. It shows how companies are eager to retain and attract talent in locations that remain important to their operations despite legal changes impacting employees' health.

The U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June in a case that gives its conservative majority a chance to roll back abortion rights or even overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide. About two dozen states including Oklahoma and Alabama have laws poised to limit abortion access should the Roe ruling be overturned.

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Amazon's new benefit, effective to Jan. 1 retroactively, applies if an operation is not available within 100 miles (161 km) of an employee's home and virtual care is not possible, the company's message said. It is open to U.S. employees or covered dependents enrolled in Premera or Aetna health plans, whether they work in a corporate office or a warehouse.

The reimbursements that Amazon announced on Monday are not specific to abortion. They provide for other non-life threatening treatments such as around cardiology, cellular gene therapies and substance-abuse disorder services as well. Separately, Amazon offers up to $10,000 in annual travel reimbursements for life-threatening issues.

The news came on the day Amazon stopped offering paid time off for U.S. employees diagnosed with COVID-19, letting them have five days of excused unpaid leave instead. Amazon employees at a warehouse in New York are having their votes counted on Monday as well that will determine whether the facility unionizes. A group of current and former workers known as the Amazon Labor Union has pushed for better pay and job security.

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Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif.; Editing by Will Dunham and Chizu Nomiyama

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