For 17 years, ExxonMobil shareholders refused to grant workplace rights and protections to the company’s LGBT employees. As a result, workers could be fired simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and for much of that time they were denied the benefits that their straight colleagues enjoyed, like health insurance for their spouses.
According to Joe.My.God., though, that’s about to change. Last week, ExxonMobil’s board of directors voted to update its employment policies, and that update finally adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The change was announced to the company’s LGBT employee group, which then shared it with the media.
Why the turnaround? Don’t think ExxonMobil had a change of heart.
Last July, President Obama announced a new requirement that all federal contractors must enact non-discrimination employment policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. ExxonMobil — which does a lot of business with the government and needs to stay on the feds’ good side — immediately launched a pinkwashing offensive, brazenly lying about its well-documented history and insisting that the company had a “a longstanding policy that strictly prohibits any form of discrimination by or toward employees, contractors, suppliers and customers in any ExxonMobil workplace”.
How could the company make such a laughable, bizarro-world statement? Because a “policy” can mean many things. It’s possible that ExxonMobil had an unenforced policy on record, but it didn’t carry the weight of an official, non-discrimination policy — the kind that had to be approved by shareholders and/or the company’s board.
Thankfully, Obama’s federal mandate isn’t something that ExxonMobil could talk its way out of. And so, after nearly two decades of dragging their heels, trying in vain to remain rooted in the 20th century, the board has begrudgingly tip-toed into the 21st. (That reluctance may explain why ExxonMobil hasn’t bothered to issue a press release on what is, quite frankly, a massive workplace shift.)
If there’s a hell, someone better check the thermostat down there.
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