Exxon debates gay rights policy

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America’s only major company without sexual orientation policies is set to vote on anti discrimination protection regarding sexuality and gender this month.

It follows a campaign from gay group, the Equality Project and one of the energy company’s biggest shareholders, the New York City Employee’s Retirement System (NYCERS.)

The NYCERS has been campaigning since the beginning of the year to instil anti discrimination polices based on sexuality and gender identity in large US companies, with successes at Ford, American Express and the Wendy’s restaurant chain.

New York City Comptroller, William Thompson, said in January 2006, “Discrimination in any form is simply not acceptable, and we must do whatever it takes to eradicate bias.

“Companies that fail to impose formal non-discrimination policies make employees susceptible to discrimination because victimised workers are not protected. New York City invests its funds in these companies, and these companies must ensure that they are inclusive of all people.”

Tom Smith, an Equality Project founding board member, said: “ExxonMobil simply does not have a written policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Companies that mean what they say put it in writing. That’s the great fact behind the official employment policies of the majority of the Fortune 500.”

Mr Smith said it was critically important for people who own stock in ExxonMobil to vote their shares in favour of the NYCERS shareholder resolution calling on the company to reinstate sexual orientation into its written employment non-discrimination policy.

Exxon withdrew gay policies in 1999 from Mobil when the two companies merged.

The Equality Project has devised 10 equality principles which it hopes to see enacted in the workplace.

The Principles involve the adoption of written employee non-discrimination policies on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Companies agree to, incorporate non-discrimination language in their employment policy statement; disseminate the statement company-wide; not tolerate discrimination on the basis of any employee’s actual or perceived health condition, status or disability; offer equal health insurance and other benefits to employees to cover domestic partners regardless of the employee’s marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity; include discussions of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity as part of official employee diversity and sensitivity training communications; give employee groups equal standing, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; and, ensure that their advertising policies avoid the use of negative stereotypes.

Additionally, companies agree not to discriminate against advertising, marketing or promoting events on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, or in the sale of goods or services based on sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, and not to prohibit charitable contributions to groups and organizations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.

ExxonMobil’s annual meeting will be held on May 31.