It was poised to be ExxonMobil’s chance to make amends to LGBT employees who had been asking that sexual orientation be included in the company’s anti-discrimination policy. But yesterday, more than 80 percent of shareholders voted against it during a meeting in Dallas that – no surprise – also brought its share of protestors.
Since 1999, ExxonMobil has been voting against LGBT rights despite the fact that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are actually recruiting LGBT workers with incentives that include workplace protections. This year, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies have included sexual orientation protections in their corporate policies (and 50 percent also include gender identity protections). It should be noted that ExxonMobil tops the Fortune 500 list, and according to HRC’s Corporate Equality Index this year, it’s one of the worst places in America to work – if you’re LGBT. The company received a negative 25 on the 2012 rating. The rating sunk from zero, which it has maintained for the last few years.
In contrast, oil and gas companies like Chevron, BP and Shell all received scores of 85 or higher from the HRC this year, leaving what can only be described as a black eye on ExxonMobil’s increasingly bad reputation.
The Dallas Morning News, ExxonMobil’s hometown newspaper, even called on the company to reconsider its policies this week, noting that the company’s history hasn’t always endorsed discrimination on this level. “It wasn’t always this way,” the paper says. “Before the merger in 1999, Mobil was a pioneer on the equality front. The company included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and even offered domestic-partner benefits. After the merger, Exxon changed the policy, though benefits were grandfathered for Mobil employees who had been receiving them.”
But anyone who’s been hired after the merger – they’re out of luck. And they can, according to company policy, be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The editorial calls on the company to rethink the decision: “ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, should heed the call this time around. By explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the company will join the growing community of corporations that now view this as an essential and even indispensable part of doing business.”
GetEQUAL, a grassroots organization that’s been working to ensure LGBT rights in the U.S., protested ExxonMobil as they voted yesterday. And while the group has repeatedly asked the company to reconsider its policies, they admit that the Obama administration could have a hand in the way LGBT employees are treated in the workplace across the country.
“When the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company with nearly 30,000 employees in the United States refuses to protect the LGBT community against workplace discrimination, it underscores the need for Congress to pass ENDA now,” says GetEQUAL’s Mark Reed in the Dallas Voice. “Every day that Congress does not act on ENDA is another day when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees can be fired from ExxonMobil for simply being who they are.”
The controversy also underscores what LGBT employees face daily in the workplace, especially in states like Pennsylvania, where there are no protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Without those protections, there are little or no safety nets against wrongful termination. And being fired for being gay is still, sadly, very much a reality.