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Shareholders reject anti discrimination measure at Exxon meeting

Last week we wrote about the criticism that Exxon Mobil is facing because of their policies on workplace and hiring discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. The oil company is one of few remaining Fortune 500 companies that does not offer protection for LGBT employees through its corporate policies, a fact which has somewhat tarnished its public reputation. 

This year, as in the past 14 consecutive years, one major shareholder added a resolution to this year's annual meeting agenda that would require the company to extend health care benefits to legally married spouses of gay employees. A dozen states now allow same-sex marriage in some form, but companies are not required to extend benefits based on that fact alone. Unfortunately the shareholders of Exxon Mobil chose to defeat the resolution once again, which means that the company will maintain its current stance on the issue of benefits. 

Here in Pennsylvania, employees are not protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation. We have written about this issue many times before since it has become increasingly relevant given the public debate over gay rights in general. 

Oftentimes when employers are discriminiating against a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered employee they will not come right out and list sexual orientation or gender identity as the reason. Instead an employer may use an excuse such as downsizing to avoid seeming biased against gay people. In other situations the bias may be more subtle or even unrecognized in a manager who gives preference to a non-gay employee over an employee who is gay. When this happens, employees are not totally without recourse. The law in this area is evolving and it is worth considering whether there are compelling elements to the case that might help the larger organization to change a policy or that could win over a jury during a trial. 

Source: New York Times, "Shareholders of Exxon Mobil Reject Gay Discrimination Ban," May 29, 2013.