The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected a request by ExxonMobil to reject a shareholder resolution proposing protections for employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The regulatory agency issued its ruling Tuesday, according to the office of New York State comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, which filed the resolution. The resolution requests that ExxonMobil “amend its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.” Noting the inconsistencies between state and local laws concerning employment discrimination, the resolution acknowledges that the company would benefit from a “consistent, corporate wide policy to enhance efforts to prevent discrimination, resolve complaints internally, and ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees.”
ExxonMobil wrote to the SEC in January and argued that because it has a blanket policy against all forms of employment discrimination the call for a sexual orientation-inclusive measure was redundant.
However the SEC’s division of corporation finance rejected ExxonMobil’s claim saying that the company’s blanket nondiscrimination policy relies on state law which does not always cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
Further, the SEC said the information presented by the company showed that ExxonMobil’s blanket ban on discrimination did not meet the guidelines the SEC requires, meaning that ExxonMobil had so far failed to “substantially” implement the full breadth of the SEC nondiscrimination proposal because the policy isn’t part of the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity statement and therefore lacks the legal force an EEO statement carries.
ExxonMobil has come under fire for its consistently poor record on LGBT worker rights, managing a -25 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 Corporate Equality Index, a new low for any company.
The index assigns a score based on a number of criteria including whether the corporation has basic non-discrimination policies, inclusive health care coverage, and same-sex spouse coverage. Exxon Mobil failed to meet any of the positive scoring criteria for the 2012 Index.
Prior to the 1999 merger of Exxon and Mobil, Mobil did offer domestic partnership coverage and had a sexual orientation-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.
Since the takeover, ExxonMobil has faced repeated calls for explicit LGBT nondiscrimination coverage but has staunchly resisted those calls.
Shareholder reception on previous calls for the nondiscrimination policy, dating back to 2008, has been largely positive, and the SEC is anticipating an “optimistic” response during this year’s vote in May.