Some LGBTQ+ ExxonMobil employees are outraged at the company's decision to ban the Pride flag and other flags representing outside groups from corporate flagpoles.
The Pride flag and others can be displayed in other areas, "including on lawns or in digital spaces," The New York Times reports. And flags representing company-approved employee resource groups, such as the LGBTQ+ group, can be flown on corporate flagpoles, and they along with government flags are the only ones approved for such use.
"The updated flag protocol is intended to clarify the use of the ExxonMobil branded company flag and not intended to diminish our commitment to diversity and support for employee resource groups," Tracey Gunnlaugsson, vice president of human resources, said in a statement to Bloomberg News, which was the first outlet to report on the issue. "We're committed to keeping an open, honest, and inclusive workplace for all of our employees, and we're saddened that any employee would think otherwise."
Some employees do think otherwise. The LGBTQ+ group's Houston chapter will not represent the company in the city's June 25 Pride parade, Bloomberg reports.
"Corporate leadership took exception to a rainbow flag being flown at our facilities" in 2021, Exxon's PRIDE Houston group wrote in an email viewed by the news service. "PRIDE was informed the justification was centered on the need for the corporation to maintain 'neutrality.'"
"Employee resource groups were consulted only in a perfunctory way regarding this matter, based on momentary discomfort with displaying a symbol of open-mindedness and support for long-suppressed voices," J. Chris Martin, who once headed the ExxonMobil LGBTQ+ group but is no longer with the company, told the Times. Current employees did not comment to either the Times or Bloomberg.
The Human Rights Campaign denounced ExxonMobil's move on Twitter.
"We support the LGBTQ+ employees at Exxon and hope Exxon's leaders understand there's no such thing as 'neutrality' when it comes to our rights. Our flag isn't just a visual representation of our identities. It is also a staple of allyship," the group wrote.
ExxonMobil lagged most other energy companies in supporting LGBTQ+ employees. When Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999, Mobil had an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and domestic-partner benefits, but Exxon did not. The merged company rescinded the nondiscrimination policy and ended new enrollments in the benefits program, although those already enrolled could still receive the benefits. It restored domestic-partner benefits in 2014, and then in 2015 agreed to explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. ExxonMobil had claimed that it banned all types of discrimination but did not list those types.
The move to add these details to the antidiscrimination policy came after extensive lobbying of the company by activists and the issuance of an executive order by President Barack Obama barring anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination by companies holding contracts with the federal government, a category that includes ExxonMobil.