The Human Rights Campaign has joined the New York City
Employees' Retirement System in filing a shareholder resolution calling
on ExxonMobil to add sexual orientation to its written
non-discrimination policy. This is the third year in a row that HRC has
co-filed this resolution, and the fifth time the nation's largest oil
company has faced such a measure.
"ExxonMobil is clinging to antiquated business practices that are
detrimental to employee morale and the company's bottom line" Kim I.
Mills, HRC's education director, said today. "It continues to waste
valuable time and money opposing this resolution, although it claims not
to discriminate. We shareholders fail to understand why, if that's the
case, it won't write the policy down as we continue to request."
ExxonMobil is the only U.S. company that has ever rescinded a
non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation, which it did in
December 1999 when Exxon merged with Mobil. At the same time, it closed
Mobil's domestic partner benefits program to any more employees.
"In the last two months of 2002, two similar holdouts – Lockheed
Martin and CBRL, the parent company of Cracker Barrel Country Stores –
changed their non-discrimination policies rather than face more such
shareholder resolutions," said Mills. "If Cracker Barrel can do it, we
fail to understand why ExxonMobil remains recalcitrant."
Cracker Barrel became notorious in 1991 when it was revealed
that the company had a formal policy of firing employees "whose sexual
preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values which have
been the foundation of families in our society." At least 11 workers
were fired as a result. The company's blatant discrimination – which
remains legal in 37 states — touched off a wave protests and boycotts
at Cracker Barrel restaurants.
HRC co-filed the resolution in December. The measure will come to a vote
in the spring at the annual shareholder meeting, which usually takes
place in May in Dallas.
The resolution at ExxonMobil has gained steady support since it
was first filed by The Equality Project, a New York-based GLBT
shareholder advocacy group. In 2002, the measure received 23.5 percent
of all votes cast by ExxonMobil shareholders – a huge margin for a
social responsibility question. This represented more than 1 billion
shares, worth almost $44 billion. In 2001, it received 13 percent, and
in 2000, 8.2 percent. In 1999, before the merger, an identical
resolution garnered 5.9 percent of the vote among Exxon shareholders.
The resolution got a big boost last year when Institutional
Shareholder Services, which advises pension funds and other large
shareholders, recommended a vote in favor of adding sexual orientation
to the corporate non-discrimination policy.
The resolution, which is not binding, calls for ExxonMobil to
adopt a policy stating: "Employment discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation diminishes employee morale and productivity. …Our
company would benefit by a consistent, corporate-wide policy to enhance
efforts to prevent discrimination, resolve complaints internally, and
ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees."
A total of 301 of the Fortune 500 – and most of ExxonMobil's
major competitors — have such policies in place, according to HRC
WorkNet, which tracks this trend. BP (formerly BP Amoco), Shell Oil Co.
and ChevronTexaco Corp. all have written non-discrimination policies
covering sexual orientation and offer same-sex domestic partnership
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