Exxon adds discrimination protections in U.S. for LGBT workers

Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:21pm EST
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By Anna Driver

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: Quote), the world's largest publicly traded oil company, has changed its U.S. employment policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as now required by federal law.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said Friday the company's board approved the policy change at a meeting on Wednesday and noted that the oil company "always updates its policies to comply with the laws where we work."

Investors had pressed for the change for years, filing shareholder proposals for Exxon to guarantee protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1999.

Exxon has previously resisted making the change, saying it already prohibited all forms of discrimination at its offices anywhere in the world.

But lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people now are federally protected classes. In July, President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

The U.S. government relies on supply contracts for fuels from many oil companies, which also have lease agreements to work on federal lands or offshore.

An organization that monitors companies' LGBT policies suggested Exxon's policy change was a calculated one while New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who pushed for the move, welcomed it.

"To articulate its policy through the lens of legal conformance is not an affirmative changing of course and full adoption of equality, but instead a calibrated response to retain government contracts," said Deena Fidas of The Human Rights Campaign Foundation.   Continued...

A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi