The Illinois Department of Human Rights initially dismissed the charge of discrimination submitted by Freedom to Work in early 2014 due to lack of jurisdiction, but the Illinois Human Rights Commission vacated the dismissal on July 14, 2014. The Department later found that there was substantial evidence of Exxon violating the Illinois Human Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in its hiring practices.
On July 27, 2016, a decision by an Administrative Judge on the Illinois Human Rights Commission stated that while Freedom to Work satisfied the definition of “aggrieved party” for the purposes of filing a charge, it could not satisfy the definition of an “employee” according to the Illinois Human Rights Act in order to claim discrimination, and thus the charge of discrimination was dismissed.
This decision was appealed on August 25, 2016 on the basis that the conduct prohibited occurs with respect to the recruiting and hiring process, and that the Illinois Human Rights Act does not require that a charging party be an incumbent employee. A decision on this appeal by the Commission is still pending. We look forward to resolving this technical issue so that we can address the merits of the claim.
On May 22, 2013, Freedom to Work, a non-profit organization represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, charged Exxon Mobil Corporation with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act according to a complaint filed today with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Freedom to Work is a national non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, which conducted groundbreaking testing to reveal Exxon’s discrimination against LGBT employees.
A copy of the complaint can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1686PWf
Freedom to Work is represented in the case by Christine E. Webber of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
According to the discrimination charge filed with the state of Illinois, Freedom to Work submitted a pair of “test” resumes from fictitious applicants in response to an Illinois-based job listing on Exxon’s web site in December, 2012. The paired resumes were very similar in experience, education and skills except one resume indicated that the applicant identified as LGBT. In fact, the resumes were written to make it clear to Exxon that the LGBT candidate had better qualifications in terms of experience, education and skills than the other candidate.
Exxon responded by treating the better-qualified LGBT applicant far worse than the less qualified non-LGBT applicant. On three occasions, Exxon contacted the non-LGBT and less-qualified candidate for an interview and Exxon even suggested that it would hold open the job for the non-LGBT applicant. The better qualified LGBT candidate was never contacted by Exxon about the position
Exxon’s far worse treatment of the better qualified LGBT applicant constitutes a violation of Illinois law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness,” said Tico Almeida, President of Freedom to Work. “This case is one more reminder that Exxon stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work. Exxon must obey the Golden Rule and do unto others as they would want others to do unto them”
For years, Exxon has repeatedly refused to join the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies, including all major ones in the gas and oil industry, that have adopted and implemented explicit policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex married partners in states where such marriages are legal and it also repealed protections for Mobil’s employees when the companies merged in 1999.
Because of Exxon’s hostility to providing rights and benefits to its LGBT employees, Exxon scores a “negative 25” on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, the leading benchmark for corporate equality practices.
“This case shows why Exxon must adopt and implement a policy banning discrimination based on who you are or who you love,” said an attorney at Cohen Milstein who represents Freedom to Work. “All qualified people should have a fair shot to get a job at Exxon. On behalf of all Americans who support workplace fairness, we will hold Exxon accountable and stop this global corporation from discriminating in the future.”
On May 29, 2013 Exxon will hold its annual shareholder’s meeting in Dallas, Texas, where shareholders will vote on a resolution introduced by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, to force Exxon to adopt a corporate policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Freedom to Work launched a Change.org petition that urges Exxon to end its discriminatory workplace policies, which can be viewed here:http://goo.gl/z4yjZ
Exxon’s policies not only affect the company’s employees throughout the United States, but also affect the American taxpayer. Exxon wins hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts every year, which means that taxpayer dollars are fueling the company’s discriminatory policies.
“Taxpayers are subsidizing policies that betray core American values of fairness and equality,” added Almeida. “It’s crucial that we stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on Exxon’s refusal to follow basic corporate workplace standards.”
The paired “testing” method that Freedom to Work employed in Illinois is a longstanding practice that civil rights organizations have used to root out illegal discrimination in employment and housing, including discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and national origin. In this case, Freedom to Work partnered with the Equal Rights Center, one of the most experienced civil rights organizations that conducts employment and housing testing. This is the first time that a civil rights group has filed a legal action based on testing that involved a LGBT job applicant.
“Based on the Equal Rights Center’s 30-years of testing experience, and nearly 2,000 tests conducted in the last year, our testing methodologies are recognized and accepted by the civil rights community, government agencies, and the courts,” added Donald L. Kahl, executive director of the Equal Rights Center. “The type of testing we conducted with Freedom to Work is a critical part of objectively demonstrating why our LGBT community needs and deserves anti-discrimination protections.”
The methodology used in the Exxon testing mirrors that of a 2011 Harvard University study that found that LGBT applicants were 40 percent less likely to be granted an interview than a heterosexual applicant. The study can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/hqsHj
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