That’s the question that has many activists looking closely at tomorrow’s ExxonMobil shareholders meeting. The Texas-based company must decide if it would like to add language to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Remarkably, the corporate giant is one of the few Fortune 500 companies that does not have specific anti-discrimination language protecting gays, lesbians and transgendered employees.
According to the Human Rights Campaign:
The fight to make ExxonMobil’s non-discrimination policy inclusive dates back to 1999. Before Mobil Corp. was acquired by Exxon Corp., Mobil prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and offered health benefits to domestic partners of its employees. Upon its 1999 merger with Exxon, the non-discrimination policy was removed and the domestic partner benefits program was closed to new employees. Since that year, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation along with other groups such as the New York City Pension Funds, has filed a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories in the company’s EEO policy.
ExxonMobil has repeatedly asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to leave out the resolution, but this year the request was denied. According to the Washington Blade, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is putting the resolution before shareholders, urges the oil and gas giant to follow the progressive lead of other Fortune 100 companies:
By ExxonMobil not having a clear policy based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it really leaves the corporation to not getting access to the best talent that’s available. We’re looking at it very much from the point of view of shareholding and wanting our companies to do very well, and we think that this lack of addressing this issue of discrimination is an impediment to ExxonMobil getting the best performance that will benefit our shares.
And also, willfully excluding an entire group of capable and dedicated employees is flat out discriminatory. Here’s hoping the shareholders join the modern age, and follow the lead of other Texas-based companies like AT&T and Dell, Inc., and expand their anti-discrimination verbiage to protect LGBT empoyees, where current laws in Texas do not.