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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
ExxonMobil shareholders reject LGBT employment protections
Section One
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ExxonMobil shareholders reject LGBT employment protections

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Petrochemical behemoth ExxonMobil has refused once again to include LGBT employees in its corporate nondiscrimination policy.

The decision came at the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Dallas on May 23.

ExxonMobil is currently number one on the Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. corporations.

Some 80% of the company's total shares voted against a resolution to amend its written equal-employment opportunity policy to 'explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.'

Mobil Oil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of Gay and Lesbian employees.

Those policies were rescinded in 1999 when Mobil merged with Exxon. Since then, a proposal to reinstate the pro-LGBT policies has been offered at every shareholders' meeting, but without success.

This year, the resolution was introduced by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who controls his state's pension funds. As of May 18, New York's pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil, worth more than $1 billion.

DiNapoli proposed that ExxonMobil not only amend its nondiscrimination policy, but also that it begin offering health benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees married in New York.

ExxonMobil management says the company offers health benefits to same-sex partners in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, but it goes by federal law in the U.S., which only recognizes opposite-sex spouses.

Outside the meeting, protesters lined the street in front of the Meyerson Symphony Center Hotel, where the shareholders' meeting was held.

About 50 people with organizations including the United Steel Workers (USW) union, Code Pink, and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination.

The USW represents hourly workers at a number of ExxonMobil refineries. Their issues with the company include worker safety as well as inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn't be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

'The people who are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really did a good job of pushing it this year,' he said. 'We've got a better shot than in the past.'

Cates added that ExxonMobil had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt the company in the marketplace.

'They're clinging to antiquated business practices,' he said. 'It's a matter of really learning that [nondiscrimination] is good for business.'

A statement from ExxonMobil management called the proposed resolution unnecessary. The company is a 'meritocracy' for its 82,000 workers worldwide, it claimed, and already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

For the first time since 1999, ExxonMobil management appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to throw out the shareholder resolution prior to the vote. The company based its argument on a nondiscrimination statement in its 'Corporate Careers' brochure.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to pre-empt a vote on the proposal, saying the brochure does not have the formal weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

ExxonMobil has earned the only negative rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, with a score of minus-25.

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