ExxonMobil accused of LGBT discrimination in legal complaint

Posted by Justin Snow
May 22, 2013 4:02 PM |

As one of the last Fortune 500 companies to not adopt an LGBT antidiscrimination policy, ExxonMobil is facing renewed pressure to do so after a complaint was filed today with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Exxon.jpgAccording to the complaint filed by Freedom to Work and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which focuses on civil rights and employment law, Freedom to Work conducted a "test" in December 2012 that allegedly showed ExxonMobil in violation the Illinois Human Rights Act after they gave preference to a non-LGBT applicant who was less qualified than an LGBT applicant. According to the complaint:

In particular, when a highly qualified LGBT candidate applied to work as an administrative assistant for Exxon in Illinois, Exxon refused to invite the applicant for an interview and never contacted her about her interest in the position. In stark contrast, during the same time period a less qualified non-LGBT applicant applied for the same position and Exxon responded by contacting the less qualified non-LGBT applicant on three separate occasions to ask her to interview for the position. On the third occasion that Exxon contacted the non-LGBT applicant, Exxon’s representative even suggested that the position would be held open for the non-LGBT applicant for four days until the applicant could contact Exxon. And even after the non-LGBT candidate failed to respond to Exxon’s request for an interview, Exxon did not contact the better qualified LGBT candidate for an interview.

The complaint states that both résumés showed the two female applicants involved in activist organizations, but the more qualified applicant was involved with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the less qualified applicant was involved with a local feminist organization. 

Although ExxonMobil's headquarters are located in Texas, which does not have LGBT workplace protections, and there are no federal protections due to the unsuccessful passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by Congress, the complaint states that the Illinois Human Rights Act governs employment in that state where the open position with ExxonMobil was located.

"Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness," said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, in a statement. "This case is one more reminder that Exxon stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work. Exxon must obey the Golden Rule and do unto others as they would want others to do unto them."

The complaint comes one week before the company holds its annual shareholder's meeting in Dallas, where a resolution to adopt a policy banning anti-LGBT discrimination will be considered. Introduced by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the resolution is similar to one considered last year by shareholders, who rejected it with an 80 percent to 20 percent vote.

"This case shows why Exxon must adopt and implement a policy banning discrimination based on who you are or who you love," said Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Cohen Milstein, in statement. 

The Human Rights Campaign's 2013 Corporate Equality Index awarded ExxonMobil a score of -25. Of all Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent have a nondiscrimination policy for sexual orientation and 57 percent have one for gender identity. Of the top 20 Fortune-ranked companies, which includes ExxonMobil, 13 received scores of 100 percent.

ExxonMobil is also one of the government's top 100 contractors. In 2012, more than $505 million taxpayer dollars in federal contracts were awarded to ExxonMobil. There remains no law prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination as long as ENDA remains stalled in Congress and President Barack Obama refuses to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating.

"Taxpayers are subsidizing policies that betray core American values of fairness and equality," said Almeida. "It's crucial that we stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on Exxon's refusal to follow basic corporate workplace standards."

Read the full complaint here:

ExxonMobil Complaint


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