The plaintiff was Freedom to Work, an American nonprofit organization, which was represented by Christine E. Webber and Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll (“Lawsuit Claims LGBT Bias,” 2013). The defendant was the Exxon Mobil Corporation, an American corporation.
The Exxon Mobil Corporation is an international corporation that hires employees in many states, including Illinois. Exxon Mobil claims that it has a Corporate Citizenship Report with a “zero-tolerance policy” policy on discrimination against LGBT individuals, but it lacks an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement (Ford, 2013). Believing that Exxon Mobil was discriminating against job candidates on the basis of sexuality, Freedom to Work set up a resume audit test in December 2012. They sent two fictitious resumes to apply for a job that Exxon Mobil was offering in Illinois. One candidate was highly qualified for the position, but had information about previous work with the Gay & Lesbian Victory fund on her resume. The other candidate was less qualified, but provided no information about her sexuality or gender identity on her resume. The first candidate received no response from the Exxon Mobil Corporation, while the second candidate received multiple calls back (Johnson, 2016). Based on the results of the test, Freedom to Work claimed that the Exxon Mobil Corporation had violated the Illinois Human Rights Act in the resume screening process (“Freedom to Work v. Exxon Mobil Corporation,” 2013).
In 2013, Freedom to Work filed an employment discrimination charge against the Exxon Mobil Corporation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The lawsuit was seeking restitution that would force the Exxon Mobil Corporation to add stricter protections for LGBT individuals in hiring and employment, as well as repayment of legal fees. In January 2015, the Illinois Department of Human Rights determines that there was enough evidence for the case to be heard (Johnson, 2015), which means that the Illinois Department of Human Rights would act as a co-prosecuter in a suit in front of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Ring, 2015). Shortly thereafter, Exxon Mobil changed the language of its equal opportunity policy to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in compliance with a 2014 executive order by President Obama that required government contractors to provide such protections (Johnson, 2016). However, Freedom to Work decided to continue with the suit in order to ensure that the policy was being properly implemented and to hold the Exxon Mobil Corporation to account for its recent employment practices (Johnson, 2015). The case is currently pending (Johnson, 2016).
The principal issue at stake was whether the Exxon Mobil Corporation was discriminating against LGBT individuals in its hiring practices. This would have been a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Explain the applicable law
The Illinois Human Rights Act, which was passed in 2005, prevents discrimination on the basis of many qualities, including sexual orientation. Article 2 specifically bars employment discrimination (“Illinois Human Rights Act,” 2005).
In January 2015, the Illinois Department of Human Rights announced that there was enough evidence for the case “to be heard before a trier of fact so that credibility can be determined,” (Johnson, 2015). This allowed for a suit to be filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, on behalf of both Freedom to Work and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (Johnson, 2016).
The Illinois Department of Human Rights reasoned that the results of the resume test conducted by Freedom to Work was sufficient to negate the Exxon Mobil Corporation’s defense that its resume screening practices were based solely on an candidate’s experience, not their volunteer work or education. Therefore, the suit could move forward with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Johnson, 2016).
- Ford, Z. (2013). ExxonMobil sued fro anti-gay employment discrimination. Think Progress. Retrieved from https://thinkprogress.org/exxonmobil-sued-for-anti-gay-employment-discrimination-15deb72533f2
- Freedom to Work v Exxon Mobil Corporation – Illinois Department of Human Rights. (2013). Retrieved from http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/ExxonComplaint.pdf
- Illinois Human Rights Act. (2005). Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved from http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2266&ChapterID=64
- Johnson, C. (2016). Exxon faces anti-gay bias lawsuit as Trump taps CEO for State. Washington Blade. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/12/14/lawsuit-alleging-anti-gay-bias-exxon-ongoing-trump-taps-ceo-state/
- Johnson, C. (2015). Illinois finds ‘substantial evidence’ of anti-gay bias at ExxonMobil. Washington Blade. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/02/04/illinois-finds-substantial-evidence-anti-gay-bias-exxonmobil/
- Lawsuit claims LGBT bias in ExxonMobil hiring. (2013). Windy City Times. Retrieved from http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Lawsuit-claims-LGBT-bias-in-Exxon-Mobil-hiring/42923.html
- Ring, T. (2015). ExxonMobil investigation turns up evidence of antigay bias. The Advocate. Retrieved from http://www.advocate.com/business/2015/02/06/exxonmobil-investigation-turns-evidence-antigay-bias