By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com September 27 2013 3:10 PM ET
ExxonMobil has announced that it will offer employee benefits to same-sex couples.
The oil giant, considered a notoriously poor place to work for LGBT people, will extend eligibility for health care plans to the legal spouses of its gay and lesbians employees, beginning October 1.
The announcement follows pressure from LGBT organizations and the U.S. Labor Department, which told ExxonMobil that its former discriminatory policy did not comply with federal law, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
"We haven't changed our eligibility criteria. It has always been to follow the federal definition and it will continue to follow the federal definition," Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, clarified to The Huffington Post.
Tico Almeida, the president of workplace advocacy group Freedom to Work, praised the change of policy, but cautioned that the Fortune 500 company still failed to protect LGBT employees and job candidates from discrimination. Its shareholders have routinely voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s antidiscrimination policy.
“Today is a victory for the freedom to work,” Almeida said in a statement. “After years of stubbornly refusing, we commend Exxon for joining the majority of the Fortune 500 business leaders that already treat gay and lesbian married couples equally under employee benefit plans.”
“It's time for Exxon to stop wasting its shareholders’ money by running up legal bills on discrimination proceedings that can be settled right away if the corporation would simply add LGBT protections to Exxon's official equal employment opportunity document,” he added.
In 2012 and again in 2013, HRC awarded ExxonMobil a -25 in its Corporate Equality Index. It is the lowest score ever received by a corporation.
Read more about ExxonMobil’s poor record with the LGBT community in the current cover story in The Advocate, “What’s Wrong With Exxon.”