After years of booing and hissing, ExxonMobil finally has a nondiscrimination policy to protect LGBT employees. However, you might want to hold off on dancing in the streets, since Exxon only did it because President Obama made them.
ExxonMobil has a pretty shoddy history when it comes to preventing worker discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. In fact, back in 1999 when Exxon bought Mobil Oil, the company actually rolled back the domestic partner benefits that Mobil previously offered employees. This move gave Exxon the dubious honor of being the first Fortune 500 company to actually move backwards in its nondiscrimination policy. The company also resisted shareholder resolutions to adopt LGBT protections 17 times, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
With a track record like that, it wasn't much of a surprise that Exxon proved reluctant to update its standards of business conduct. Even after Obama issued an executive order back in July prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees -- meaning Exxon risked losing a whole bunch of federal contractor money if they didn't update their policy -- the company still dragged its feet.
However, the possibility of losing large federal contracts apparently can do wonders for one's tolerance, or at least for the official company stance on tolerance. The company added both gender and sexual orientation to it's rule book, ExxonMobil's U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity and Harassment in the Workplace, according to the Washington Blade. The company spokesperson Scott Silvestri told the Blade that Exxon finally stepped up because they're really, truly dedicated to not being discriminatory. "ExxonMobil supports a work environment that values diversity and inclusion, and has numerous inclusive programs and policies that help make ExxonMobil a great place to work," he told the paper.
Despite this decidedly rosy picture of the motivations driving the nation's largest oil company, some of Exxon's critics, including HRC, are skeptical about the timing of this update. "This wasn't prompted by a change of principles or corporate values, it represents Exxon's response to President Obama's July 2014 executive order," Deena Fidas, director of HRC's Workplace Equality Program, stated in a release.
So either a company that has previously scored an actual zero on workplace tolerance from the HRC just suddenly woke up a few days ago and decided to say what the heck and give the whole nondiscrimination thing a try, or one of the nation's largest federal contractors decided to suck it up and put a formalized policy in place because to continue without said policy would cost them millions.
Now which story sounds more plausible?
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