The Illinois Department of Human Rights has found there is “substantial evidence” of anti-LGBT discrimination in ExxonMobil’s hiring practices, and it will join in a pending legal action against the oil company, the Washington Blade reports.
An investigation by the department produced sufficient evidence for the case “to be heard before a trier of fact so that credibility can be determined,” officials said in a document dated last Friday and obtained by the Blade Wednesday.
Freedom to Work and the Equal Rights Center had filed a complaint with the department in 2013, alleging that ExxonMobil was more willing to consider job candidates who did not appear to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender than those who did.
The groups made this allegation after sending two fictitious résumés to ExxonMobil, applying for a job opening in Illinois in December 2012. One represented a highly qualified applicant who had worked for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, therefore indicating the applicant might be LGBT; the other was for a less qualified job-seeker with no information giving clues about sexual orientation or gender identity. The latter received multiple callbacks; the former did not. During the Department of Human Rights investigation, ExxonMobil officials denied that the LGBT-related information was a factor in the résumé screening process.
The complaint could go forward with either the Illinois Human Rights Commission or the appropriate circuit court, with the Department of Human Rights acting as co-prosecutor, the Blade reports. There is a 30-day window to file a complaint with the commission, but an additional 60 days to sue in circuit court.
Freedom to Work president Tico Almeida said the case needs to continue even though ExxonMobil last week agreed to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its antidiscrimination policy, after years of lobbying by activists. The company previously claimed that its policy covered all forms of discrimination, without having to explicitly list every type. Activists contend it decided to add sexual orientation and gender identity in order to avoid losing federal government contracts after President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting contractors from discriminating on the basis of these characteristics.
One of Freedom to Work’s goals in filing the complaint was to persuade ExxonMobil to adopt an explicitly LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, but the organization also want to see training for company workers, and it seeks to recover legal fees as well.
“Exxon was recently forced by President Obama’s executive order to add gay and transgender employees to the corporation’s equal employment policies, but those were merely changes on paper,” Almeida told the Blade. “We must ensure that LGBT employees actually get a fair shot in their careers at Exxon, not just on paper. Freedom to Work will continue to prosecute this civil rights case and hold Exxon accountable for its antigay discriminatory conduct from the recent past.”