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DiNapoli pushes Exxon Mobil on LGBT rights

ALBANY -- Texas-based oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. investors will vote Wednesday on a proposed company policy to ban discrimination against gay or transgender workers, a shareholder resolution pushed by New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Using the $150-billion state pension fund's stock portfolio as influence, the comptroller's office said it has helped persuade 27 other big corporations to agree to new nondiscrimination policies, though several previous attempts at Exxon Mobil have failed. Holders of 20 percent of the company's shares supported a resolution last year.

Exxon Mobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a "meritocracy" for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination. "The corporation administers its personnel policies, programs, and practices in a nondiscriminatory manner in all aspects of the employment relationship," its proxy statement said.

Exxon spokesman Bill Holbrook pointed to the anti-discrimination policy posted on the company website: "Our global, zero-tolerance policy applies to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

DiNapoli, sole trustee of a retirement fund with about 16 million shares worth $1.3 billion, or less than 1 percent of the corporation's total, disagreed. He said that after Exxon acquired Mobil in 1999, it ended Mobil's policy of providing health benefits to same-sex partners except those previously covered. The company needs a clearer policy prohibiting discrimination that helps competitively with recruiting the best talent, he said.

"There's that double bottom line where you're doing something that ensures the investment does well -- that's the first priority," DiNapoli said. "And it does something good in terms of a broader objective that benefits society."

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