New York’s Comptroller has new tactic to help ExxonMobil evolve

DiNapoli.Thomas

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

Shareholder resolutions haven’t worked, so after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is trying a new tactic to force the ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

In the past, DiNapoli has filed shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil. As the sole trustee of the state’s $160 billion pension fund, he has some clout among many companies whose stock is in the fund. He has successfully negotiated changes in policies at about 30 of them.

As head of the pension fund, he uses the business argument. If ExxonMobil discriminates by not offering benefits to same-sex married couples, while Shell, Chevron and BP offer the benefits, then the company is shrinking its employee pool and hurting the value of the stock the state owns. New York controls more than $1 billion in ExxonMobil stock.

—  David Taffet

Gay discrimination claim against Exxon advances; Resource Center sends letter

Almeida.Tico

Tico Almeida

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has agreed to investigate a discrimination claim against ExxonMobil brought by the group Freedom to Work.

The Illinois department said the investigation would take up to a year.

Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, said his group brought the charges in Illinois because that state has some of the country’s strongest protections based on sexual orientation.

In May, the organization sent similar resumes to ExxonMobil for an open position. The difference was that one applicant was lesbian while the other was straight and slightly less qualified. The company contacted the straight woman and held the job open for her even when she didn’t respond. The more qualified lesbian candidate was never contacted.

Locally, Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, sent a letter this week to two ExxonMobil executives — Malcolm Farrant, vice president of human resources, and David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations and board secretary. Last year, she met with them along with LGBT executives from Dallas-area Fortune 500 companies to discuss implementing nondiscrimination policies.

“As most of my subsequent inquiries to you have gone unanswered, I am writing today to see where things stand on the matters that were discussed,” she wrote.

She references the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and bipartisan Senate committee approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this week.

Cox’s full letter is below:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Gay Congressman Mark Pocan denounces Exxon from House floor

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Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., denounced ExxonMobil from the floor of the House of Representatives today. He referred to the vote in Dallas last week on a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its employment nondiscrimination policy.

“The government shouldn’t be in business with companies that discriminate,” he said.

He said ExxonMobil has received more than $1 billion in government contracts over the last decade.

“BP doesn’t discriminate,” he said. “Chevron doesn’t discriminate. Shell Oil doesn’t discriminate, but ExxonMobil does and their anti-equality policies should start to hurt their bottom line.”

He said ExxonMobil’s policies demonstrate why we need a comprehensive Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

Pocan co-chairs the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

Watch the video of Pocan’s speech below.

—  David Taffet

Freedom to Work sues ExxonMobil for anti-LGBT discrimination

Almeida.Tico

Tico Almeida

Freedom to Work, a national workplace discrimination organization, filed a complaint against Irving-based ExxonMobil today charging it with violating Illinois’ ban on anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

The lawsuit comes one week ahead of ExxonMobil’s annual meeting in Dallas, where shareholders will again consider a resolution to add LGBT employees to the company’s nondiscrimination policy.

Two test resumes were submitted for a position with the company, according to the complaint. One was an LGBT applicant who was highly qualified for the position. Another was a less-qualified straight woman.

Exxon responded by treating the better-qualified LGBT applicant far worse than the less qualified non-LGBT applicant, the suit alleges. On three occasions, Exxon contacted the non-LGBT and less-qualified candidate for an interview, and Exxon even suggested that it would hold open the job for the non-LGBT applicant.

The better qualified LGBT candidate was never contacted by Exxon about the position.

“Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness,” said Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work in a press release. “This case is one more reminder that Exxon stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work. Exxon must obey the Golden Rule and do onto others as they would want others to do onto them.”

ExxonMobil shareholder resolutions to add LGBT protections have been voted down every year since 1999. ExxonMobil is the only company that has ever received a negative score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. The company rescinded domestic partner benefits and discrimination protections for gay employees after Exxon and Mobil merged.

More coverage of the meeting in Friday’s Dallas Voice. Freedom to Work’s full press release is below.

—  David Taffet

ExxonMobil funds summer interns at 2 AIDS agencies

Melissa Grove

Melissa Grove

ExxonMobil is funding summer internships for college students at 30 area nonprofit organizations, including AIDS Services Dallas and Legacy Counseling Center.

The Legacy intern will assist Program Director Brooke Nickerson at Legacy Founders Cottage.

“Brooke’s job is challenging,” said Executive Director Melissa Grove. “I liken it to having seven sick family members living at your house and your job is to coordinate all of their care, ensure the house is moving smoothly, get them to appointments, pick up medication and grocery shop. She welcomes the help!”

The ASD intern will work with the children living at the facility, according to the agency’s CEO Don Maison. He said they’ve had an intern funded by Exxon for about 10 years who takes the children to Six Flags, the library and museums.

“Keeping them off the street,” he said.

Also among the 30 agencies are the Center for Nonprofit Management, which has been a good resource for a number of LGBT and AIDS organizations and Promise House, which partners with Youth First Texas for emergency youth shelter and transitional living.

Several arts organizations will have ExxonMobil interns, including Dallas Black Dance Theater and Undermain Theater.

College students interested in applying should contact the agencies.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center sends letter to Dallas company about adding LGBT policies

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas’ CEO Cece Cox sent a letter Friday to Holly Frontier Corp. requesting a meeting with them about adding LGBT protections.

The oil and gas company, based in Downtown Dallas, is one of 17 Fortune 500 companies that the Equality Forum recently listed as not having any LGBT-inclusive policies.

Holly Frontier, along with ExxonMobil and Energy Transfer Supply, are based in the Dallas area.

In the letter sent to Holly Frontier’s Human Resources Director Joe Aken, Cox mentions that the company received a score of zero on the Human Rights Campaign 2012 Corporate Equality Index and that it is one of the 17 Fortune 500 companies without any LGBT-inclusive policies.

Therefore RCD leaders want to meet with the company to discuss adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to its nondiscrimination policy and offering comprehensive transgender healthcare coverage. RCD also wants the company to participate in LGBT sensitivity training for employees, engage in recruiting LGBT employees and become involved in the LGBT community.

With 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies including sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and 50 percent including gender identity, adding LGBT protections to the company’s nondiscrimination policy “simply makes good business sense,” Cox writes in the letter, adding that the revisions would “provide clarity and consistent protections for employees while minimizing risk to shareholders.”

RCD sent a letter to ExxonMobil back in May before a shareholders meeting to vote on adding LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy, which later failed. RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he could not comment on whether ExxonMobil responded to the request for a meeting.

In the coming months, McDonnell said RCD plans to send a letter requesting a meeting with Energy Transfer Supply to work with them on LGBT protections and policies as well.

See RCD’s letter below.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

Mobil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees. But ExxonMobil rescinded those policies after the merger.

Outside the meeting, dozens of protesters lined Flora Street in front of the Meyerson on Wednesday. About 50 people with organizations including Code Pink, United Steel Workers and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination, while a handful of protesters parodied the CEOs that make the choices and profit from ExxonMobil.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn’t be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

“The people that are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really done a good job of pushing it this year,” he said. “We’ve got a better shot than in the past.”

As for Exxon not voting in favor of adding the protections in the past, Cates said the company had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt business.

“They clinging to antiquated business practices,” he said. “It’s a matter of really learning that this is good for business.”

This year, the resolution was initiated by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who wants the company to not only amend the nondiscrimination policy, but also to begin offering health benefits to the spouses of employees married in the Empire State.

The comptroller controls the state’s pension funds. As of May 18, New York’s pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil worth more than $1 billion.

ExxonMobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a “meritocracy” for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

This is also the first year ExxonMobil appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to have the shareholder resolution thrown out. The company based its claim on a nondiscrimination statement in its Corporate Careers publication.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to throw out the resolution, saying the publication doesn’t have the weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil maintains the lowest possible rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, with a minus-25.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement noting that as of 2012, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

“The shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s EEO policy was a non-binding referendum and the company still has the chance to do the right thing,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As perhaps the largest corporation in the country, ExxonMobil has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; sadly they have fallen far short. The company has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT workers for years and it’s time they treat all of their employees like the valuable assets they are.”

—  John Wright

Resource Center awaiting response to meet with ExxonMobil officials about LGBT protections

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas has sent two letters to ExxonMobil officials and is waiting to hear back about a meeting to discuss the upcoming shareholder vote to add LGBT protections to its EEO policy.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox sent a letter to an ExxonMobil board member last month in an effort to schedule a meeting with the new vice president of human resources.

The Irving-based company is considering adding a resolution to include sexual orientation and gender identity to its EEO policy.

ExxonMobil shareholders will vote on a resolution to add LGBT protections to its EEO policy at a shareholders meeting May 30 at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

After no response from the board member or corporate, Cox sent a letter Wednesday directly to Malcolm Farrant, the new vice president of human resources. In the letter, Cox points out that having internal policies that prohibit LGBT discrimination are not enough. She calls adding the protections “good business sense” because it would provide “clarity and consistent protection” for employees and minimize risk for shareholders.

Farrant took over the position April 1, so Cox told Instant Tea that he has the “potential to be influential,” if not for the May 30 vote, then maybe within a year the company’s view to adding the protections could change.

The resolution is “not that likely to pass” even with a meeting before shareholders vote and if the resolution passes without meeting with RCD, she said she’d be “surprised” based on the company’s history.

Still, Cox said she wants the “opportunity to educate them about the significance of equality in the workplace for LGBT employees.”

“I think that a face-to-face interaction is often more productive in these types of circumstances where we’re clearly at odds with their position and they’re at odds with ours, so you can only get so far with emails and letters” she said.

Cox said she hopes RCD gets response for a meeting but ExxonMobil needs a “respectable amount of time to respond” to the second letter. If no response is received, she said RCD could simply show up at corporate headquarters or continue to politely request a sit-down meeting.

“Others have been working on this for years and years, we’re not the only one,” Cox said. “But we are right here in their backyard and so I hope that they would have the courtesy of wanting to interact face-to-face with our community.”

GetEQUAL organizer Daniel Cates is organizing a protest at the May 30 meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. The protest will be from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

He said the organization has protested ExxonMobil’s meetings before, but this year it is a joint protest to encourage the company to add the protections and to speak to President Barack Obama to sign an executive order to ban LGBT discrimination for companies that have federal contractors.

“We really think that this is the perfect example of the need for our president to sign this executive order,” Cates said. “We need to be pressing him, as well as ExxonMobil, to do the right thing.”

View the letters and resolution after the jump.

—  Anna Waugh

SEC turns down ExxonMobil’s bid to block shareholder resolution

Protest at 2010 ExxonMobil shareholder's meeting in Dallas

The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected an attempt by ExxonMobil to block a shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy.

The resolution was proposed this year by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on behalf of the state’s pension funds, which own ExxonMobil stock.

Mobil was one of the first companies to offer benefits to its LGBT employees. That company was also a pioneer in banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and had that policy in place for more than a decade before the merger.

Nondiscrimination and benefits were taken away when it merged with Exxon in 1999. At the shareholder meeting held annually at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, an attempt has been made to restore those benefits. The number of shareholders voting for the resolution has increased each year.

At last year’s meeting, votes representing more than 500 million shares supported equality.

The company received a –25 percent score on the Human Right’s Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index last year, the first time a company scored a negative rating. Other oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and BP receive an 85 percent or higher rating. As of 2012, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

—  David Taffet

OUT & EQUAL: By the numbers

Northrup Grumman CEO Wes Bush announcing a $20,000 gift to Youth First Texas. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Out & Equal Workplace Summit held Oct. 22-25 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel broke records.

Justin Tanis, director of communications for the organization, reported that 2,623 people registered for the conference, which was a record. Participants came from 30 countries.

“The summit overall raised $2.5 million,” Tanis said.

That total includes corporate sponsorships, registrations, merchandise sales and auctions.

At the Thursday night gala, live and silent auctions raised $74,660 that will benefit the Out & Equal Scholarship Fund for LGBT students. In addition, Northrup Grumman gave Youth First Texas a check for $20,000.

According to Cordey Lash, Hilton Anatole’s senior sales manager — multicultural, the conference had a $3 million impact on the hotel. That number includes just under 6,000 room-nights sold, as well as food and beverage sales.

Because the hotel was sold out for three nights of the conference, the impact to Dallas was even greater. Three surrounding hotels also sold hundreds of additional room-nights.

Thursday night’s gala attracted 2,800 people, one of the largest seated dinners at the hotel since the Black Tie Dinner moved from the hotel.

“It was one of the most impactful conferences of the year,” Lash said.

—  David Taffet