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Illinois will investigate claims of anti-gay discrimination in ExxonMobil’s hiring practices


By Jacob Combs

AP file photo
AP file photo

Illinois state officials will investigate ExxonMobil’s hiring practices to see if the company discriminates against gay applicants in light of a civil rights complaint filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in May by the LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Work.  BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner has more:

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has accepted Freedom to Work’s complaint of employment discrimination against ExxonMobil, the first known time an LGBT group has used a ‘tester’ case — in which a group submits similar applications from fictitious applicants who only differ in the relevant characteristic being tested — in an organizational lawsuit.

“Freedom to Work decided to take a successful strategy from the playbook of African-American civil rights leaders by employing matched-pair employment testing at Exxon and other federal contractors that lack LGBT workplace protections,” Freedom to Work president Tico Almeida told BuzzFeed. “We very quickly found evidence that Exxon has given unfair hiring preference to some lower qualified straight applicants over more qualified LGBT applicants.”

As we wrote when Freedom to Work filed its complaint in May, ExxonMobil remains one of the few Fortune 500 companies without an LGBT non-discrimination policy; the oil company received a score of -25 in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index.  The week after the group’s complaint was filed, ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted against adopting a non-discrimination policy at their annual meeting.  Only 12 percent of Fortune 500 companies do not have such a policy.

As Geidner points out, the Illinois Department of Human Rights’s investigation will focus on four areas:

It will look at whether ExxonMobil exercises unequal terms and conditions of employment due to sexual orientation and whether it does so due to perceived sexual orientation, as well as investigating whether ExxonMobil failed to hire due to sexual orientation and whether it did so due to perceived sexual orientation. It will be looking to find if there is “substantial evidence” for any of the charges, at which point it would seek conciliation with ExxonMobil or the case could proceed to court.

As the ExxonMobil investigation gears up, Freedom to Work is also pushing hard to advance the Employment Non-Discrimation Act (ENDA), which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity across the U.S.  Later today, the group will hold a press call detailing their efforts to lobby North Carolina Senator Richard Burr to support the legislation.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee is due to vote on ENDA tomorrow.

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