What's the Worst Company for LGBT Employees? ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil, No. 1 in the Fortune 500, is the absolute worst corporation for LGBT equality, refusing to add orientation to its antidiscrimination policies for the 14th year in a row.

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.

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Lynching Memorial and Museum Opening Highlights America's Racist Past, Parallels Today's Killings of African Americans

"We're dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, 'Why would you talk about the difficult past?' But everything is not wonderful."


Hundreds of people lined up in the rain to experience a long overdue piece of American history and honor the lives lost to lynching at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery Alabama on Thursday.

The Equal Justice Initiative, sponsor of this project, has documented more than 4,000 "racial terror" lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

The first memorial honoring the victims includes sculptures and art depicting the terror Blacks faced; 800 six-foot steel, engraved monuments to symbolize the victims; writings and words of Toni Morrison and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and a final artwork by Hank Willis Thomas capturing the modern-day racial bias and violence embedded in the criminal justice system and law enforcement.

Among memorial visitors were civil right activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and film director Ava Duvernay. According to the Chicago Tribune, Jackson said it would help dispel the American silence on lynchings, highlighting that whites wouldn't talk about it because of shame and Blacks wouldn't talk about it because of fear. The "60 Minutes Overtime" on the memorial just three weeks earlier was reported by Oprah Winfrey, who stated during her viewing of the slavery sculpture, "This is searingly powerful." Duvernay, quoted by the Chicago Tribune, said: "This place has scratched a scab."

The Montgomery Downtown business association's President, Clay McInnis, who is white, offered his thoughts to NPR in reference to his own family connection to the history that included a grandfather who supported segregation and a friend who dismantled it. "How do you reconcile that on the third generation?" he asked. "You have conversations about it."

A place to start: The Montgomery Advertiser, the local newspaper, apologized for its racist history of coverage between the 1870s and 1950s by publishing the names of over 300 lynching victims on Thursday, the same day as the memorial opening. "Our Shame: the sins of our past laid bare for all to see. We were wrong," the paper wrote.

The innumerable killings of unarmed Black men and the robbing of Black families of fathers, mothers, and children today not only strongly resemble the history of lynchings, but also bring up the discomfort and visceral reactions that many have not reckoned with.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and the man who spearheaded this project, told NPR: "There's a lot of conflict. There's a lot of tension. We're dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, 'Why would you talk about the difficult past?' But everything is not wonderful."

WFSA, a local news station, interviewed a white man who had gone to see the Legacy Museum downtown, also part of the EJI project, located at the place of a former slave warehouse. He talked about how he was overwhelmed by the experience and that "Slavery is alive in a new way today."

Reactions on social media were reflective of the memorial's power and the work that is continuing toward progress.

During a launch event, the Peace and Justice Summit, Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, urged the audience to continue their activism beyond the day's events on issues like ending child poverty and gun violence, according to the Chicago Tribune: "Don't come here and celebrate the museum ... when we're letting things happen on an even greater scale."

Perhaps the reason to honor and witness the horrific experiences of our ancestors is to seal in our minds the unacceptable killings of Blacks today, and the work we ALL have to do now to stop repeating the past.

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