ExxonMobil says its “global zero-tolerance policy” already applies to “all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” even though the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” do not appear in the current policy, as written.
Nevertheless, the company says harassment, “even in its most subtle forms, directly conflicts with company policy and will not be tolerated. All employees are subject to disciplinary action, including termination, for any act of harassment.”
The shareholder proposition, submitted by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, and voted down by 81 percent of stockholders, would have introduced into the company’s zero-tolerance non-discrimination policy language specifically addressing LGBT individuals.
The ExxonMobil Board of Directors, in a proxy statement, recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal:
“The Board has reviewed in detail ExxonMobil’s existing global policies that prohibit all forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in any Company workplace, anywhere in the world,” it said. “In fact, ExxonMobil’s policies go beyond the law and prohibit any form of discrimination. Based on these existing all-inclusive, zero-tolerance policies, the Board believes the proposal is unnecessary.”
Conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, applauded shareholders for rejecting the proposal.
“While other businesses drift away from their principles or capitulate under pressure, Exxon is putting its stock in something other than political correctness,” said FRC President Tony Perkins. “Exxon is setting a good example for other businesses who think promoting extreme political views is the only away to avoid the strong arm tactics of far left special interests.”
In their submission to shareholders, homosexual advocates noted that more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted written nondiscrimination policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“It’s clear that ExxonMobil is not going to change its policy unless it’s forced to,” said Heather Cronk, director of GetEqual, told MSNBC after the vote.
Indeed, legal force is now being applied.
A week before Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, the oil giant was sued by the LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Work, which alleges that ExxonMobil discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation by hiring a less-qualified administrative assistant rather than one who served as treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
The Los Angeles Times noted that a lawyer for the plaintiffs called ExxonMobil “an outlier that refuses to follow industry standards.”
“The concern is that it’s one of the largest corporations in the world yet won’t adopt an express policy prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination,” the newspaper quoted Peter Romer-Friedman as saying.
“Exxon might make money from fossil fuels, but it’s lagging behind most other Fortune 500 companies with fossilized workplace policies,” Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, declared in a statement released on the organization’s Facebook page. “Exxon remains on the wrong side of history.”