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Exxon Mobil Resists Protections for Employees Based on Sexual Orientation

Carrie Barron

In May, Freedom to Work filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission alleging that Exxon Mobil violated the state’s law prohibiting discrimination against employees based upon their sexual orientation.  According to the complaint, Exxon Mobil was sent two resumes in response to a job posting in Illinois. One fictional applicant identified herself as gay, but had higher high school and college grades than the other. Exxon Mobil attempted to contact the less qualified job applicant several times,  but never contacted the gay candidate.  Freedom to Work, an organization committed to rights of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and trans-gendered people, teamed with a Washington, DC based law firm that works with many advocacy groups.

The filing of this complaint, perhaps not coincidentally, was two weeks prior to Exxon Mobil’s annual shareholder meeting where the issue of adding sexual orientation to the company’s official equal employment opportunity statement is on the agenda for the 14th consecutive year. The first time Exxon shareholders were asked to vote on this issue was in 1999 when the military instituted “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy and Matthew Shepard’s murderer was convicted.

Exxon Mobil takes a minority position amongst other Fortune 500 companies on the issue of protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  According to the Human Rights Campaign, 88% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted such policies.

Only 21 states, the District of Columbia, and 160 cities have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Neither Cincinnati nor Ohio has such laws.  No federal law offers that type of protection.

Trillium Asset Management, a company devoted to sustainable responsible investments, has submitted shareholder resolutions requesting that Exxon Mobil broaden its anti-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Prior to its acquisition by Exxon, Mobil Oil had policies protecting gay and lesbian employees from discrimination and extended benefits to same-sex couples.  Exxon rescinded those protections when it acquired Mobil in 1999.

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