SEC Rejects ExxonMobil's Attempt to Block Nondiscrimination Proposal
The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a request by ExxonMobil to block a nondiscrimination shareholder resolution proposing protection for employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, paving the way for a vote on the measure at a shareholder meeting this May.
The regulatory agency issued its ruling Tuesday, according to the office of New York State comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, which filed the resolution. The resolution requests that ExxonMobil “amend its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.” Noting the inconsistencies between state and local laws concerning employment discrimination, the resolution acknowledges that the company would benefit from a “consistent, corporate wide policy to enhance efforts to prevent discrimination, resolve complaints internally, and ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees.”
In January, ExxonMobil wrote to the SEC to argue that the company’s employment policies already conformed to the proposal’s request. “Specifically, the Employment Policies and Practices page on ExxonMobil's internet site now specifically states that our zero-tolerance policy against any form of employment discrimination covers both sexual orientation and gender identity,” said the letter. The policy in question says, “Any form of discrimination by or toward employees, contractors, suppliers, and customers in any ExxonMobil workplace is strictly prohibited. Our global, zero-tolerance policy applies to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The office of chief counsel in the SEC’s division of corporation finance rejected that assessment in its response sent this week. “Based on the information you have presented, it appears that ExxonMobil’s policies, practices and procedures do not compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal and that ExxonMobil has not, therefore, substantially, implemented the proposal,” said the letter.