Exxon Mobil shareholders voted by a significant margin on Wednesday to reject a resolution that would have expanded the company’s equal employment opportunity policy to include non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers.
This year is the 16th time the company rejected a resolution to protect LGBT workers, according to Exxon Mobil, despite some media reports that it was the 14th time.
This year, this resolution was sponsored New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose state owns a significant share in the company. The resolution failed after only 19.8 percent of shareholders approved the measure.
Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, chided Exxon Mobil for not instituting a policy that would bring the company into alignment with its competitors and other Fortune 500 companies, such as BP and Texaco.
“Exxon shareholders once again rejected a measure that would simply provide all Americans a fair shot to hold a job no matter who they are or who they love,” Almeida said. “Every day, more and more Americans realize that the Golden Rule of treating others as we would like to be treated applies to gay and transgender people too. Exxon remains on the wrong side of history for its business, for its workers and for the American people.”
An Exxon Mobil spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the rejection of the resolution other than to provide the vote tallies from this year and the previous two years. In 2012, 20.6 percent of company shareholders voted in favor of the resolution, while in 2011, 19.9 percent of shareholders voted in favor of it.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, claimed victory over the rejection of the resolution, which said indicates the company “is putting its stock in something other than political correctness.”
“The four to one margin against the resolution is a strong indication that the homosexual community’s agenda is not resonating beyond the most liberal states,” Perkins said. “Exxon is setting a good example for other businesses who think promoting extreme political views is the only away to avoid the strong arm tactics of far left special interests.”
Last week, Freedom to Work filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil alleging anti-gay bias in hiring practices in Illinois, which is against state law there. As a part of a potential settlement agreement, Freedom to Work is asking the company to institute a non-discrimination policy for LGBT workers, an option Almeida said is still on the table.
“The directors can agree to a settlement without the shareholders taking up a vote, so we maintain our position that we would settle the lawsuit tomorrow if they would cut and paste the LGBT workplace policies of Chevron or BP or Texaco,” Almeida said. “But they may, out of stubbornness, choose not to settle. They may choose to drag this out as long as possible. In which case, we look forward to the discovery process, litigation where we will subpoena internal documents and depose H.R. professionals to try to root out the cause of Exxon’s stubborn decision to hold on antiquated anti-gay policies.”
The decision to reject the policy at Exxon Mobil — which has received more than $1 billion in U.S. government awards in the past decade — raises the question of whether President Obama will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The White House has said it prefers a legislative approach to addressing the issue of LGBT workplace discrimination in the form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In response to a Washington Blade inquiry on whether the Exxon Mobil vote warrants a reexamination of the executive order, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, replied, “Regarding a hypothetical Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors, I have no updates for you on that issue.”
Nonetheless, Almeida said the vote demonstrates the need for President Obama to take administrative action to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.
“Now is the time for President Obama to act decisively and make clear that doing business with the American government and the American taxpayer means adhering to the American people’s sense of fairness,” Almeida said. “President Obama can and should sign an executive order today that bars federal contracts for companies that don’t prohibit discrimination against LGBT Americans. He made this a written campaign promise five years ago, and there are no good excuses for delaying fairness any longer.”