A national LGBT organization that last year filed a complaint against oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, alleging hiring bias, had a hearing on the matter Oct. 21.
Freedom to Work initially filed a complaint against the company with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) in May 2013, saying that ExxonMobil favored non-LGBT job applicants over LGBT candidates.
The case was dismissed in January of this year, but Freedom to Work appealed that decision and won a new hearing.
IDHR regulations prohibit details of the hearing from being released until a decision is rendered on the matter by the agency, said Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida. That decision will be at most within 90 days of the hearing, he said, adding, "We can't say what happened, but we think it was an important and successful hearing. This was the first time that Exxon has ever had to answer question in a legal proceeding. It was the first time Exxon has ever had to answer in a legal proceeding relating to Exxon's anti-LGBT policies."
The organization sent ExxonMobil two test resumes. One of the fictional candidates, who would have been better qualified for the position, was identified as LGBT. Freedom to Work alleges the company repeatedly tried to contact the non-LGBT candidate for an interview, even with their lesser qualifications, but never tried to contact the LGBT one.
ExxonMobil says its non-discrimination policy covers sexual orientation and gender identity, but Freedom to Work and other advocates maintain that that the policy fails to adequately enumerate any specific protections.
In a June 16, 2014, statement, Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Communication Fred Sainz said, "ExxonMobil's Equal Employment and Opportunity Policy has clearly and consistently omitted enumerated LGBT non-discrimination protections for its personnel. Though their statement sounds like it's taking a very progressive stand, it is in fact a master class in doublespeakcrafted, no doubt, by a team of well-paid lawyers. Until a nondiscrimination policy is enumerated, it isn't worth the paper it's printed on."
ExxonMobil is the only company in the history of HRC's Corporate Equality Index to score a negative rating.
According to Freedom to Work officials, ExxonMobil presented two witnessesone from their Human Resources department, the other from their legal departmentand will be represented at the hearing by lawyers from the Chicago firm Seyfarth Shaw. Almeida was also a witness at the hearing.
"It is encouraging that the Illinois Department of Human Rights is now investigating the merits of Freedom to Work's discrimination charge," said Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who is Freedom to Work's counsel, in a statement. "We are confident the evidence will show Exxon broke the law and that Exxon must change its policies so that LGBT workers are no longer subject to harmful discrimination. After a one year delay due to an erroneous dismissal of the case on technical grounds, we look forward to working with the Department to finally hold Exxon accountable."