The Washington Blade notes that for the 17th year in a row, ExxonMobil voted against a resolution that would institute policy prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees:
According to the company, only 19.5 percent of shareholders voted to approve the proposed resolution at their annual meeting on Wednesday, which this year took place in Dallas, Texas. The resolution would have incorporated LGBT non-discrimination language in the oil-and-gas giant’s equal employment opportunity policy.
“The Board has reviewed in detail ExxonMobil’s existing global policies that prohibit all forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in any company workplace, anywhere in the world,” the guidance says. “In fact, ExxonMobil’s policies go beyond the law and prohibit any form of discrimination. Based on these existing all-inclusive, zero-tolerance policies, the Board believes the proposal is unnecessary.”
Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said he “couldn’t disagree more” with the line of thinking from Exxon Mobil’s board.
“By this same standard, race, gender, religion, and national origin would not be enumerated categories in law,” Sainz said. “Over fifty years of practical experience has firmly established that there is heightened sensitivity to discrimination only when categories are enumerated. If ExxonMobil is as committed to zero-tolerance as they claim, there’s simply no reason to have fully-inclusive policies. Until then, their commitment to equality will rightly be questioned.”
The article does note that in 2013, ExxonMobil did institute a policy for offering health and pension benefits to same-sex partners. This is a turn around from when they scrapped such benefit offerings after merging with Mobil Oil in 1999. Mobil did offer such benefits. The change was seen largely as trying to just comply with the 2013 Supreme Court Decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act vs. out of any good will or progressive change at the company. So, what is holding them back?
“What’s Wrong with Exxon?”, an article by Antonia Juhasz from the September 2013 issue of The Advocate magazine, provides a history of Exxon and interviews with some of the companies former employees to try and answer that question:
In 2012, and again in 2013, the Human Rights Campaign gave Exxon Mobil a negative 25 out of 100 possible points on its annual Corporate Equality Index. It is the lowest score ever received by any corporation. No other company has ever received a negative score.
Instead, in 2013, the HRC found nearly 90% of Fortune 500 companies had adopted written nondiscrimination policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, as had 94% of Fortune 100 companies. With the exception of Exxon, all of the Fortune 10 companies have adopted such policies, as have Exxon’s largest oil company competitors. Over 62% of Fortune 500 companies had domestic partner health benefits. Over 70% of the Fortune 100 prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
Exxon not only failed to meet a single one of these or the other HRC criteria for an LGBT-inclusive workplace, it has also actively worked for 15 years against annual shareholder resolutions calling for such inclusion.
But Exxon isn’t simply stuck in the early ’90s — it has actually erased nondiscriminatory and partner benefit policies in place in companies it has purchased:Mobil Oil Corporation, in 1999, and XTO Energy, in 2010. It is the only company known to have ever permanently done so.
Exxon is under investigation by the state of Illinois for employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. A second case of such discrimination was found in Texas this year.
“It was a slap in the face,” says Tom Allen of the reversal of Mobil’s LGBT policies. “We worked so hard to get them, and this took us back 30 years.” Allen went to work at Mobil when he was 23 years old and stayed with the company through the Exxon merger until his retirement in 2010, after 35 years of service. He participated in Mobil’s historic implementation of LGBT nondiscrimination policies and partner benefits.
“I find myself embarrassed today that I have to defend where I work,” Allen says. “And the bigger slap in the face is that it just keeps going. Every single year at that [expletive] stockholders’ meeting, they slap us in the face again.”
As a result of Exxon’s policies, Allen’s former domestic partner and his current husband have both been denied medical and other benefits they would have received at Mobil.
A gay former employee of XTO Energy and Exxon who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, says of the change in policy, “I feel that [Exxon is like that] racist old aunt, that racist grandfather figure, that person completely out of touch with the times. I don’t see the upside to the company for continuing [the discriminatory policies]. Someone must think there’s an upside. I don’t know what it is…. So, now I’m like, ‘OK, how much longer are you going to be out of step with the rest of us?’”