ExxonMobil Finally Officially Protects Its LGBT Employees

CREDIT: AP Photo/LM Otero

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson answers questions at a 2014 shareholders meeting.

For over a decade, ExxonMobil shareholders and company officials have repeatedly voted against extending corporate policy to protect LGBT people from discrimination, earning it the Human Rights Campaign’s lowest ranking for LGBT inclusion among the country’s largest businesses. That reputation just came to an end, as the company has officially added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its officially protected classes.

A reader over at Joe.My.God. indicated that ExxonMobil’s LGBT employee group, PRIDE, had sent word to workers of the change this week. The company’s newly updated Standards of Business Conduct confirm that the inclusive language is now present. Both sexual orientation and gender identity are explicitly included as protected statuses for both its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and Harassment in the Workplace Policy.

An ExxonMobil spokesperson confirmed to ThinkProgress that the policies had been updated, adding, “ExxonMobil’s policies prohibit all forms of discrimination in any company workplace, anywhere in the world. ExxonMobil supports a work environment that values diversity and inclusion, and has numerous inclusive programs and policies that help make ExxonMobil a great place to work.”

The policies indicate that they have been “modified for application in the United States.” This suggests that ExxonMobil made the change specifically because of President Obama’s executive order last summer requiring that all contractors of the federal government must have policies protecting their LGBT employees. ExxonMobil was undoubtedly the largest such contractor without a policy. The company announced in July that it would comply, but this new document is the first evidence of that compliance.

Back in 2012, the ExxonMobil board claimed that it did not need the explicit LGBT protections because it had a “zero tolerance” policy for harassment and discrimination. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disagreed, pointing out that it did not have the same legal force nor consistency across the company as including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” among the other enumerated classes in the official policies. The claim may also have been unconvincing because Mobil previously had protections based on sexual orientation, but Exxon removed those policies when the two merged. A suit accusing ExxonMobil of discriminating against gay candidates for job openings in Illinois is ongoing.

LGBT workplace protections are but one factor that the Human Rights Campaign considers on its corporate scorecard, which means ExxonMobil’s rating will not immediately be salvaged by the change.