For the 14th time, ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted against a proposal to instate nondiscrimination protection for the company’s LBGT employees. The proposal’s failure to pass at yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting was no surprise–few shareholder resolutions do not even come close to passing, as 3p has routinely reported. And as the case with most shareholder proposals, ExxonMobil’s board of directors recommended owners of the company’s stock vote down the proposal in a recent proxy statement submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. But this round, shareholders defeated the proposal by over a four-to-one margin, a record thumbs-down vote according to the Dallas Voice.
As corporate social thought leaders Susan McPherson and Laura Clise outlined last fall, big business supports gay rights for a variety of reasons: 1) most working professionals in offices are adults 2) at a fundamental level, it is the right thing to do 3) equality within the office for everyone makes business sense.
So why is ExxonMobil digging in its (pardon the pun) heels?
According the the world’s most profitable company, it is not, as the company states in last month’s proxy statement:
“ExxonMobil is committed to having a workplace that facilitates the maximum contribution from all of our employees. While there are many factors that are important to creating this type of environment, one of the most significant is having a workplace that is free from any form of harassment or discrimination.”
The rhetoric, however, is a complete misfire compared to the reality. The old Mobil Corporation had LGBT protection as a company policy, but it was stripped out after the 1999 merger with Exxon. And ExxonMobil still refuses to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its equal opportunity employment policy.
A New York state employee retirement fund proposed the resolution. State Comptroller George Wong argued that by refusing to extend spousal benefits such as health care to same sex couples who hold a New York marriage license, ExxonMobil discriminates. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil carries the distinction of being the only company to earn a negative rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a DC-based gay rights advocacy group. As an aside, Chevron has earned a 100 percent rating from the HRC annually since 2005.
The controversy will not go away for ExxonMobil anytime soon. In Illinois, the nonprofit Freedom to Work has sued ExxonMobil for workplace discrimination. The suit alleges that after a pair of “test resumes” were sent incognito for an Illinois-based job listing, ExxonMobil employees treated the “better qualified” LGBT candidate much worse than the non-LGBT one–and in fact, aggressively offered the latter candidate the job while never contacting the LGBT applicant. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. federal contracts annually, which therefore continue to fuel the discrimination.
As for other Fortune 500 companies, Think Progress states 88 percent have LGBT protection as company policy.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Wikipedia]