HRC President calls ExxonMobil the ‘worst corporate citizen’ while other companies like AA and AT&T are leaders on LGBT policies

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Exxon remains the pariah corporation in the 2014 Corporate Equality Index. Despite offering partner health benefits, the company retained its minus-25 score, the only company with a negative score.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called the company “the worst corporate citizen in America.”

He called their actions “unconscionable” and dismissed any offer of benefits as “So far behind.”

“I hope every customer and investor will push that company to do the right thing,” he said.

Deena Fidas, Human Rights Campaign’s director of the Workplace Project that compiles the annual publication, was not impressed with the company’s offer of partner healthcare benefits.

She said that without a nondiscrimination policy in place, employees would have to out themselves to get coverage and could be fired at will for being gay or lesbian.

The company even had 25 point deducted because it worked so hard to fight a shareholder resolution to add nondiscrimination to its equal employment opportunity statement.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission has even had to step in to reject ExxonMobil’s requests to block the pro-equality shareholder resolution,” Fidas said.

She said the company was simply bringing its policies in line with the law.

“In other words, if you work in one of the 29 states without a non-discrimination law based on sexual orientation, or one of the 33 without gender identity protections, and you want to assume the risk of a public outing through an out-of-state marriage, and and have the means to travel to D.C. or the 16 states with marriage equality to get this license, then your spouse may in fact then be eligible for benefits at ExxonMobil,” she said.

Other local companies are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

American Airlines, AT&T, Nokia and GameStop received perfect scores.

Griffin said American Airlines and AT&T were national leaders in offering benefits and embracing the LGBT community.

AT&T spokesman Charles Bassett said this was the tenth year in a row his company received 100 percent. He said diversity is part of AT&T’s corporate culture.

“Because our customers, our suppliers and our investors are diverse, we serve them best when our workforce is diverse,” Bassett said. “That’s why AT&T has long been a leader in ensuring a diverse workforce and inclusive work environment.”

Bassett listed some of the benefits his company offers that go beyond HRC’s requirements to receive a perfect score. The company’s health insurance includes transition-related treatment of transgender individuals. New hires go through mandatory training on AT&T’s non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The company reaches out to the LGBT community in recruitment, marketing and community involvement and support.

“Additionally, one of our 11 employee resource groups, which offers employees the opportunity to learn, network, collaborate and develop professionally, is LEAGUE at AT&T — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies Organization,” he said. “LEAGUE at AT&T was founded by employees in 1987, making it the first LGBT employee resource group in corporate America.”

While Fort Worth’s largest transportation company, American Airlines, received a perfect score, the city’s second largest, BNSF Railway, received just a 20. The company has a nondiscrimination policy based on sexual orientation.

However, BNSF announced earlier this month they will begin offering healthcare benefits to same-sex spouses. That announcement came a day after two legally married engineers who are gay filed a lawsuit in Seattle. Washington became a marriage equality state in December 2012.

The company claimed they would offer the benefits even though it was not required in the company contracts or by law. Attorneys for the plaintiffs disagreed and said the health plan lists eligible dependents as “your husband or wife” and does not specify “opposite sex,” so it is required by contract.

Either way, that addition in benefits could add 15 points to the company’s score next year.

Several Dallas-area companies received scores of zero including Energy Transfer, Holly Frontier Corp. and Metro PCS.

Chris Luna, an attorney for Metro PCS said his company merged with T-Mobile on May 1. The combined company, which retained the T-Mobile name, received a 100 percent rating.

Luna said the zero rating in the CEI was what was found on the Metro PCS website. He said they didn’t respond to HRC separately because of the merger.

He wasn’t sure what the rating would have been for the previous company, but he said they did have nondiscrimination that included gender identity for a number of years, partner benefits and did outreach to the LGBT community. They participated in a Resource Center job fair last year, for example.

Two other Fortune 500 companies, both based in Oak Lawn, received a zero rating. Neither returned a questionnaire and their scores are based on information available to the public on their websites.

Energy Transfer, one of the largest transporters of natural gas in the U.S., is located on Oak Lawn Avenue at Gilbert Avenue.

While the company normally keeps a low profile and keeps mum on its benefits and protections, company CEO, Kelcy L. Warren is best known for paying the city of Dallas big bucks to name the deck park over Woodall Rodgers after his nine-year-old son Klyde.

Holly Frontier Corp. is another Oak Lawn-area company, located on Harwood Street in Uptown that refines crude oil and markets wholesale refined petroleum products. Although it is not on its website, the company has claimed in the past that it has nondiscrimination protection in its EEO statement.

Griffin said more companies achieved a perfect score this year than ever. Of the Fortune 500, 125 received 100 percent including 13 of the top 20. Two thirds offer partner benefits and more than a quarter offer transgender health coverage including surgical procedures.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 13, 2013.