After 10 years of advocacy, two companies take different paths on LGBT equality in May.
Washington - After more than a decade of advocacy by the Human Rights Campaign and others to change FedEx's and ExxonMobil's workplace policies, this month, Tennessee-based FedEx Corp. announced it will offer domestic partner benefits to its employees starting in 2012, while Texas-based ExxonMobil continues to resist basic non-discrimination protections for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
"Ten years ago these two heartland employers had the same approach to LGBT workplace equality: oppose it," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Today, we see FedEx joining their competitors and the majority of Fortune 500 companies which have offered domestic partner benefits since 2006. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil sticks with its tired 'trust us' argument that it doesn't need an explicit ban on anti-LGBT discrimination in its company's EEO policy because it is somehow addressing the issue in other ways."
When the city and county of San Francisco passed its groundbreaking Equal Benefits Ordinance in the late 1990s, which requires city contractors to provide equal benefits for same-sex partners as for different-sex spouses of employees, one of the most vocal opponents was FedEx. The company lost its battle in federal court, and now provides partner benefits where required by law for contracting purposes. FedEx's will extend partner benefits in 2012. It is unclear whether the benefits will be offered to union employees. FedEx also added gender identity to its non-discrimination policy in 2009. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil shareholders voted for the 11th year in a row on a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company's non-discrimination policy. The resolution continues to garner strong support with 821 million shares valued at more than $49B voting in favor of the proposal. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation was present at ExxonMobil's annual shareholder meeting.
The HRC Foundation has also worked closely with employees of FedEx to provide a sound business argument for why the company should provide domestic partner benefits, including organizing a two day retreat where employees of FedEx and other companies learned how to be effective and trusted internal advocates.
The legacy Mobil Corp.'s equal employment opportunity policy included "sexual orientation," and the company offered domestic partner benefits to its employees however, upon its 1999 merger with Exxon, the non-discrimination protection was removed and the domestic partner benefits program closed to new employees. Twenty-four members of Congress, and thousands of stockholders and consumers, wrote to ExxonMobil Chairman Lee R. Raymond in December 1999 to protest the policy reversals. Current Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson has maintained the same position on ExxonMobil's policies.
"We hope that the announcement by FedEx will mark a turning point in its stance on LGBT workplace equality and will spur it to continually recognize the business value of treating all employees fairly and we will continue our educational efforts in the community about the choices consumers have to support fair-minded companies" Solmonese said.
FedEx's primary competitor, UPS, has scored a 100 percent on HRC's Corporate Equality Index for the past three years. While, ExxonMobil's oil and gas industry competitors Shell, Chevron and BP, also score a 100 percent on the Index.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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