2013 Year In Review: 5. DART, Exxon extended benefits

Posted on 27 Dec 2013 at 7:45am
DART

WAITING TO SPEAK | Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell bombarded the DART board with speakers until domestic partner benefits passed. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Two local long-running battles ended in victories for LGBT employees and their families this fall when Dallas Area Rapid Transit and ExxonMobil both began offering partner benefits.

DART

DART debated for more than year whether to add approximately $70,000 to its multi-million dollar employee healthcare budget to cover domestic partners.

The battle began when a former DART employee, no longer able to work, tried to go on his husband’s benefit plan. His husband is a current DART employee.

The debate stalled in March when several board members opposed to adding DP benefits proposed waiting until after a Supreme Court ruling on DOMA.

Community groups didn’t let the issue drop. Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell scheduled three to five speakers at each of DART’s twice-monthly board meetings.

After the DOMA ruling, DART took up the item again. In September, the item passed the committee-of-the-whole the required two times, but when the item went to the full board for a vote, two board members opposed to it staged a walk-out and broke quorum.

Two weeks later, with all Dallas DART board members present and enough support from suburban representatives, the measure passed.

Only 10 people have taken advantage of the plan so far, about half the number estimated when the agency projected benefits would cost $70,000 per year.

The two DART board members that walked out represent Garland, so members of the LGBT community attended a Garland City Council meeting in October to ask the city to add a nondiscrimination policy for its LGBT employees. That council is considering the proposal.

EXXON

Exxon Mobil Corporation has been fighting the addition of nondiscrimination to its equal employment policy since 1999.

During the past year, Resource Center engineered a meeting between Exxon’s international vice president of human resources and executives from Bank of America, AT&T and Texas Instruments to discuss implementing nondiscrimination policies and partner benefits. After the meeting, Resource Center heard from Exxon that they weren’t going to be pushed into acting by a bunch of gay activists.

Those gay activists that have been pushing for nondiscrimination include New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who filed shareholder resolutions to add sexual orientation to the company’s equal employment opportunity statement and believed Exxon was violating New York state law by picking and choosing which of the state’s wedding licenses to honor when offering benefits.

In October, Exxon issued a short press release, stating employees would be eligible to put same-sex spouses on its company insurance. Human Rights Campaign gave the company no points on its Corporate Equality Index for the move. HRC President Chad Griffin called them the worst corporate citizen in the United States.

Because no nondiscrimination policy is in place, employees outing themselves to get health coverage for a partner could immediately be fired, so the company received no points. Another 25 points were deducted for fighting the placement of a shareholder resolution on the ballot at its annual meeting. The Securities and Exchange Commission had to intervene.

Exxon’s final CEI rating remains minus-25.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.

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