By Barbara Frankel
For the 14th year in a row, ExxonMobil shareholders have defeated a resolution to ban discrimination against LGBT employees and offer equal benefits. The top company in the Fortune 500, which earned almost $45 billion last year (its second-most-profitable year), is very clear in its lack of regard for LGBT employees.
ExxonMobil shareholders voted by a 4-to-1 margin to reject a resolution proposed by a New York State retirement fund. The resolution argued that the company discriminates because it refuses to offer spousal benefits to employees in same-gender relationships, even if they are legally married, as they now can be in New York. George Wong, an official for the New York State Comptroller’s office, stated that lack of LGBT support hurts the fund’s recruitment efforts.
The continued refusal for equality comes at a time in both U.S. and global history when legal rights for gays and lesbians are expanding dramatically. The Supreme Court is hearing two cases—one to end the federal Defense of Marriage Act (likely) and the other to overturn California’s Prop 8, which bans same-gender marriage (less likely).
History of Bias
Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999 and then became the first company to actually eliminate domestic-partner benefits for same-gender partners of employees. (Mobil had offered the benefits and had included LGBT employees in its nondiscrimination policy before the merger.) In every subsequent year, shareholders have protested and introduced a resolution demanding LGBT rights.
ExxonMobil’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index is a minus-25, in the first year in which the HRC actually gave negative ratings.
“No company has proven itself a worse corporate citizen by betraying its LGBT employees time and again than ExxonMobil,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “By failing once more to do the right thing, ExxonMobil places itself firmly on the wrong side of history. Fair-minded consumers should take their business elsewhere.”
The HRC reports that 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies now include sexual orientation in their EEO policies and 57 percent include gender identity; 89 percent offer domestic-partner health insurance. All of The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity offer domestic-partner health benefits to same-gender employee partners and include sexual orientation in their antidiscrimination policies. Almost all include gender identity as well.
Companies in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees all have a 100 percent CEI rating, active LGBT-and-allies groups, recruitment efforts specifically aimed at LGBT people, and extensive community outreach and support of LGBT nonprofits.
ExxonMobil has never participated in the DiversityInc Top 50 survey process so we can’t assess its data. A review of ExxonMobil’s website finds little diversity information—and what is there is almost entirely about global initiatives involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Its website mentions that it has “local employee networks around the world,” including a group called People for Respect, Inclusion, and Diversity of Employees (PRIDE) that may be an LGBT group.