Second oil company dumps protections for gay employees

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 08 2003 1:00 AM ET

The Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign issued a condemnation of petroleum giant ConocoPhillips on Thursday after learning that following the merger of Phillips Petroleum with Conoco last year, the new company rescinded Conoco's nondiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation. "At a time when more and more companies are demonstrating how much they value the diversity of their employees, ConocoPhillips has delivered a slap in the face to its lesbian and gay workers," said HRC education director Kim I. Mills. "This decision places ConocoPhillips outside the corporate mainstream, even in its own conservative market sector. We urge the company to reconsider this shortsighted move and to reinstate Conoco's fair-minded policy."

Mills said this is only the second time she has observed a company rescinding a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy. In 1999, when Exxon merged with Mobil, it obliterated Mobil's nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation and closed Mobil's domestic-partner benefits program to any future employees.

Acting on a tip from an employee of the recently merged company, HRC confirmed Thursday that ConocoPhillips does not have a written policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A company official said ConocoPhillips will follow current federal law, which does not include sexual orientation, and that there is no plan to change its policy unless the federal law changes.

A total of 307 Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, according to HRC WorkNet, which tracks this and other workplace trends. Oil companies with sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies include Amerada Hess; Shell Oil Co.; BP; ChevronTexaco Corp.; Marathon Oil Corp.; Occidental Petroleum; Sunoco Inc.; and Valero Energy Corp. Conoco and Phillips Petroleum merged on August 30, creating the third-largest oil and gas company in America behind ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco. ConocoPhillips is based in Houston.