Exxon Mobil, the giant oil and gas corporation based in Texas, announced today that it has decided to change its equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies so that they now prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Exxon Mobil has been under pressure for years to amend its EEO policies to add protections for LGBT individuals. Despite this pressure, it consistently refused to change its EEO policies. The federal government, though, has now begun to implement an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT individuals. Exxon Mobil is a federal contractor that receives millions of dollars from the federal government.
This past summer, Exxon Mobil claimed that its “zero tolerance” policies ensured protection for LGBT individuals even though those policies did not explicitly say that they prohibited sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT individuals, called Exxon Mobil’s claim “a lie.” This past summer, Fred Sainz, HRC’s VP for Communications, said that, “Exxon Mobil’s Equal Employment and Opportunity Policy has clearly and consistently omitted enumerated LGBT non-discrimination protections for its personnel. Though their statement sounds like it’s taking a very progressive stand, it is in fact a master class in doublespeak—crafted, no doubt, by a team of well-paid lawyers. Until a nondiscrimination policy is enumerated, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”
HRC sees this recent change to Exxon Mobil’s EEO policy as a positive development but has not given Exxon Mobil much credit for making the change. “This wasn’t prompted by a change of principles or corporate values, it represents Exxon’s response to President Obama’s July 2014 executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people,” said Deena Fidas, HRC’s Workplace Equality Program Director. “Exxon had to include these explicit workplace protections or risk losing its federal contracts,” said Fidas.
New York State’s Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, had also pushed for ExxonMobil to change its EEO policies and he welcomed this new change. New York State’s Common Retirement Fund, which DiNapoli oversees, owns a large share of Exxon Mobil stock. “We commend Exxon for joining its many Fortune 500 peers and investors in the 21st Century where LGBT rights are synonymous with civil rights,” DiNapoli said of the EEO policy change.