2 N. Texas companies earn zeroes from HRC

Posted on 20 Sep 2007 at 6:35pm
By John Wright Staff Writer

ExxonMobil, Perot Systems get lowest possible score in annual Corporate Equality Index



Daryl Herrschaft

While more and more major U.S. employers are adopting LGBT-friendly practices, two North Texas-based companies continue to buck the trend.

One hundred ninety-five employers received the top rating of 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s latest Corporate Equality Index, an increase of 41 percent from 2006.

Meanwhile, Irving-based ExxonMobil Corp. and Plano-based Perot Systems Corp. represent two of only three companies out of the 519 HRC rated this year – that received the lowest score possible, a 0.

ExxonMobil and Perot Systems also were the only companies to be cited by HRC for “engaging in activity that would undermine LGBT equality.” The companies earned that distinction because they have repealed previous policies granting health insurance to employees’ domestic partners, said Daryl Herrschaft, director of HRC’s workplace project.

“They just get further and further away from where most of their competitors are, and I think it costs them in terms of their reputation, in terms of their ability to recruit diverse talent, and at the marketplace,” Herrschaft said.

Perot Systems is an information technology services provider that was founded by former presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1988, according to Wikipedia.com. The company has 21,000 employees. Perot Systems repealed health insurance for domestic partners after Perot returned to the company in 1998.

“We don’t participate in the [HRC] survey and don’t comment on it one way or the other,” Perot Systems spokesman Joe McNamara said. “It’s not accurate, it’s not representative, and we don’t participate in it.”

Herrschaft said Perot Systems’ rating is based on the most recent information available to HRC. He added that HRC has contacted Perot Systems representatives at least three times each year.

“The company is stonewalling,” Herrschaft said. “They did away with domestic partner benefits at their company, and they’ve been asked repeatedly to correct anything that we may have incorrect, and they have declined to provide us with any additional information.

“I think those two things combined go a long way toward showing Perot Systems’ true colors.”

In addition to health insurance for domestic partners, HRC awards points to employers for prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, offering diversity training and other practices.

For the eighth straight year, ExxonMobil shareholders voted down a resolution in May that would have added sexual orientation to the company’s anti-discrimination policy.

ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers said the addition is unnecessary because the existing policy prohibits all forms of discrimination.

ExxonMobil is the world’s largest corporation by revenue. It has 82,000 employees worldwide, with 37 percent of them in the U.S.

“I’m not going to get into the accuracy or the completeness of the [HRC] report,” Jeffers said. “We have the policies in place, we act on them, and there’s just no place for discrimination or harassment for any reason, and that includes sexual orientation.”

ExxonMobil rescinded Mobil’s anti-discrimination policy, which included sexual orientation, after the two companies merged in 1999. ExxonMobil also chose not to extend Mobil’s domestic partner benefits to new employees.

While ExxonMobil and Perot Systems joined Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer in receiving a 0, other companies dramatically improved their scores this year.

Cincinnatti-based Kroger Co., which owns a grocery store in the heart of Oak Lawn, went from a 35 in 2006 to a 75 after adding domestic partner health insurance, Herrschaft said.

Herrschaft said he believes Kroger officials’ decision to address the issue came partially in response to a Dallas Voice story about the corporation’s previous score and a controversy surrounding its removal of a gay newspaper from stores in Tennessee.

The Voice story prompted an outcry from employees of the Cedar Springs Kroger widely known as the “gay Kroger” due to its location who said the corporation has always been supportive of the local LGBT community.

“I think they are looking at this as an area where they want to have more consistency across all their operations,” Herrschaft said, adding that representatives from HRC and Kroger met recently to discuss the issue. “We’re very glad that our community was able to influence them.”

A spokeswoman for Kroger did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Kroger, which is ranked 21st in the Fortune 500, employs 7,600 people in the DFW Metroplex, according to the Dallas Business Journal’s Book of Lists 2006.

Other major local employers that scored well in the Corporate Equality Index include American Airlines (100), Lockheed Martin (85), Citigroup (100), AT&T Inc. (100) and Verizon Communications (85).

Overall, companies that received a perfect score of 100 employ 8.3 million people. When the first Corporate Equality Index was released in 2002, only 13 companies employing 690,000 received the top rating.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded at www.hrc.org/cei.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2007

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