ExxonMobil Nixes Antidiscrimination Policy, While New Report Documents Widespread Bias

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil's refusal to enact nondiscrimination protections demonstrates the need for a presidential order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors, say the authors of a new report on workplace bias.

BY Trudy Ring

May 28 2014 4:15 PM ET

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson

Today, as ExxonMobil shareholders once again rejected an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and the city of Houston considers one, a new report provides evidence that LGBT workers still face widespread bias.

A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers” synthesizes a variety of research to document that LGBT Americans still face bias in hiring, unfair firing, and on-the-job inequality, including wage disparities.

“Polls show that individuals who self-identify as LGBT are more likely to report incomes of less than $24,000 per year, and are less likely to report incomes of more than $90,000 per year, compared to their non-LGBT peers,” notes a press release announcing the report, authored by the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, and the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Many LGBT employees report hearing antigay or antitransgender remarks at work, fostering a hostile job environment. Transgender people especially face discrimination, with 26 percent reporting they’ve been fired because of their transgender status, and 47 percent saying said they had either been fired, or experienced some other adverse job outcome, such as not being hired or denied a promotion, because they were trans.

The report’s authors note that fewer than half the states in the nation have LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws. They call for enacting nationwide antidiscrimination legislation, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which remains stalled in Congress; the issuance of a presidential executive order banning such discrimination by companies that do business with the federal government; and for employers to adopt inclusive workplace policies, as many have done.

Some employers continue to resist, though. ExxonMobil shareholders, at their annual meeting today in Dallas, voted down a resolution calling on the company to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, reports The Dallas Morning News. This is the 15th consecutive year such a resolution has failed. Mobil once had a policy banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but that was repealed when it merged with Exxon in 1999. Since then, activists have submitted a shareholder resolution every year calling on the company to adopt an inclusive antidiscrimination policy. Shareholder resolutions not submitted or endorsed by company insiders, such as board members or officers, usually do not win a majority of votes, but often corporations respond by making the policy changes the resolutions call for. That has yet to happen with ExxonMobil.

A presidential executive order would make a great deal of difference with ExxonMobil, noted Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, in the press release announcing “A Broken Bargain.” “An executive order by President Obama would force ExxonMobil to adopt LGBT workplace protections in order to continue profiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts,” he said. “Exxon’s leadership has rejected these commonsense nondiscrimination policies year after year, even though their competitors at Chevron and BP understand that banning discrimination is good for business. It’s time for presidential leadership to move Exxon to accept the American value that everybody deserves a fair shot in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, the Houston City Council is expected to vote today on an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, sex, and other characteristics in housing, employment, and public accommodations. As the fourth-largest city in the nation, it is the largest without such an ordinance. More than 250 citizens have registered to speak at the council meeting, which has already started but may last well into the evening, as the council won’t take a vote until everyone has had a chance to speak, reports TV station KHOU. If the ordinance passes, some antigay activists have threatened to recall Mayor Annise Parker, who is lesbian, or seek a voter referendum to repeal it.

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