Tag Archives: fortune 500

Study: 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies playing offshore shell game

More than 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintained subsidiaries in offshore tax havens in 2015, according to “Offshore Shell Games.”

The new study was released this week by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Collectively, multinationals reported booking $2.5 trillion offshore, with just 30 companies accounting for 66 percent of this total.

By indefinitely stashing profits in offshore tax havens, corporations are avoiding up to $717.8 billion in U.S. taxes.

“Corporate tax dodging may be legal, but it’s certainly not good for everyday taxpayers and responsible small businesses,” Michelle Surka, advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said in a news release. “It disadvantages small businesses that don’t have scores of tax lawyers, creates an economic environment that favors accounting tricks over innovation and real productivity, and forces the rest of us to foot the bill. We’re beginning to see a growing international interest in cracking down on corporate tax dodging, and with $717.8 billion on the line, it’s time for the United States to start doing the same.”

“Every year, corporations collectively report that they have tens of billion more in cash stashed offshore than they did the year before, “ added Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “The hard fact is that the U.S. tax code incentivizes tax haven abuse by allowing companies to indefinitely defer taxes on offshore profits until they are ‘repatriated.’ The only way to end this kind of tax avoidance is by closing the loopholes in the tax code that enable it.”

Key findings of the report:

• 367 Fortune 500 companies collectively maintain 10,366 tax haven subsidiaries. The 30 companies with the most money booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 2,509 tax haven subsidiaries.
• 58 percent of companies with any tax haven subsidiaries registered at least one in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, countries with no corporate tax. The profits that American multinationals collectively claim to earn in these island nations totals 1,884 percent and 1,313 percent, respectively of each country’s entire yearly economic output, an impossible feat.
• The 30 companies with the most money booked offshore for tax purposes collectively hold nearly $1.65 trillion overseas. That is 66 percent of the nearly $2.5 trillion that Fortune 500 companies together report holding offshore.
• Only 58 Fortune 500 companies disclose what they would expect to pay in U.S. taxes if these profits were not officially booked offshore.In total, these 58 companies would owe $212 billion in additional federal taxes, equal to the entire state budgets of California, Virginia and Indiana combined. The average tax rate the 58 companies currently pay to other countries on this income is a mere 6.2 percent, implying that most of it is booked to tax havens.

The study highlights the following companies:

Apple: Apple has booked $214.9 billion offshore — more than any other company. It would owe $65.4 billion in U.S. taxes if these profits were not officially held offshore for tax purposes. A recent ruling by the European Commission found that Apple used a tax haven structure in Ireland to pay a rate of just 0.005 percent on its European profits in 2014, and has required that the company pay $14.5 billion in back taxes to Ireland, where the company was paying significantly less than even the tax haven’s standard low tax rate. A U.S. Senate investigation in 2013 uncovered Apple’s two Irish subsidiaries that were tax residents of neither the United States, where they are managed and controlled, nor Ireland, where they are incorporated.
Nike: The sneaker giant officially holds $10.7 billion offshore for tax purposes on which it would owe $3.6 billion in U.S. taxes. This implies Nike pays a mere 1.4 percent tax rate to foreign governments on those offshore profits, indicating that nearly all of the money is officially held by subsidiaries in tax havens. The shoe company, which operates 931 retail stores throughout the world, does not operate one in Bermuda.
Goldman Sachs: Goldman Sachs reports having987 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, 537 of which are in Bermuda despite not operating a single legitimate office in that country, according to its own website. The bank officially holds $28.6 billion offshore.
The report concludes that to end tax haven abuse, Congress should end incentives for companies to shift profits offshore, close the most egregious offshore loopholes, strengthen tax enforcement and increase transparency.

LGBT buying for ‘equality’ index delivered for Black Friday

Just in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, the Human Rights Campaign released its consumer guide to hundreds of American companies rated on their LGBT-inclusive policies and practices.

The Buying for Workplace Equality guide, first issued more than a decade ago, provides consumer information based on company scores reported in HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index, as well as HRC-researched data on additional well-known companies and their brands.

Through the CEI, the HRC Foundation proactively rates Fortune 500 companies and top law firms on LGBT-inclusive workplace policies and practices, and urges smaller companies to also participate. This year, new CEI criteria required that all participating  companies extend explicit LGBT non-discrimination protections to their employees worldwide.  

“Our annual Buying for Workplace Equality guide provides quick, user-friendly help in selecting everything from groceries to cars with LGBT equality in mind,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC Foundation’s workplace equality program. “With the LGBT community’s buying power in the U.S. edging close to $900 billion, it just makes good business sense to embrace LGBT workplace inclusion.  Every year we hear from members of  the LGBT community and many other fair-minded consumers who want to choose brands that align with their priorities of workplace fairness. They check the buyer’s guide to ensure that their dollars go to businesses that support equality.”

The guide sorts businesses by sectors, assigning them a score ranging from zero to 100 based on LGBT workplace equality, as measured by the CEI and HRC-researched data.

The categories include:

  • Apparel & Accessories
  • Banking & Finance
  • Food & Beverage
  • Home & Garden
  • Restaurants
  • Technology

Businesses and their products are divided based on their rating into red, yellow and green categories so that consumers can easily determine which brands support LGBT workplace equality:

  • Green (80-100): Businesses/brands with the highest workplace equality scores.
  • Yellow (46-79): Businesses/brands that have taken steps toward a fair-minded workplace and receive a moderate workplace equality score.
  • Red (0-45): Businesses/brands that receive our lowest workplace equality scores

The new guide includes more than 570 companies — 449 of those are rated in the CEI and an additional 121 have been independently researched by the HRC Foundation. A total of 5,496 affiliated businesses and brands are featured in this year’s report. Companies independently researched have declined invitations to actively participate in the CEI; their scores are based on publicly-verifiable information.

Apple CEO donating to $8.5 million LGBT equality campaign in the South

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, is donating money to help fund a gay rights initiative in his native Alabama and two other Southern states, organizers said.

The amount of Cook’s contribution to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign wasn’t disclosed, but the advocacy organization called it “substantial.” Organizers said it would help fund a three-year, $8.5 million campaign launched in April in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Called Project One America, the goal of the public relations effort is to build acceptance for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the states. The campaign includes advertising on TV and elsewhere, direct-mail fliers and staff members hired in each state.

“We hope Tim Cook’s substantial personal investment inspires others to support this vital and historic project,” Jason Rahlan, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said in an email.

Human Rights Campaign announced the contribution in a blog post by President Chad Griffin, and Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the donation.

“It’s a personal donation from Tim,” she said.

Cook, who grew up in south Alabama near the Gulf Coast and attended Auburn University, made headlines by coming out as gay. His announcement came just days after Cook encouraged Alabama to be more accepting of gay rights during a speech in Montgomery.

Speaking at the state Capitol during his induction into a state hall of fame, Cook said Alabama was too slow to change during the civil rights movement and was still dragging its feet on LGBT rights.

“Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation,” Cook said in October. “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and we can create a different future.”

In a written statement, the Human Rights Campaign president said Cook expressed support for the three-state campaign when he first learned about it.

“Thanks to his generous personal financial investment in the program, together we will move the needle forward at the local and state level, tearing down misperceptions and providing concrete protections for those who need it most,” Griffin wrote in a blog post.

Gay rights group cheers corporate America for pro-LGBT policies

The nation’s largest gay civil rights group, in a new report, is calling corporate America “a true leader in the fight for basic fairness and dignity.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released its Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations for policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. The index shows that 304 major businesses earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

Chad Griffin, president of HRC, said in a news release, “This will go down in history as the year that corporate support for equality left the boardroom and reached each and every corner of this country. Not only do fair-minded companies guarantee fair treatment to millions of LGBT employees in all 50 states, but now those same companies are fighting for full legal equality in state legislatures, in the halls of Congress and before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

HRC noted that hundreds of major businesses signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The briefs also urged the justices to strike down California’s Proposition 8.

Also, more than 120 businesses joined the coalition calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Senate passed the bill this fall but House Speaker John Boehner said he has no plans to allow a vote on the measure.

Additionally, according to HRC, its index “reveals record numbers of major businesses updating their non-discrimination policies and benefits packages well ahead of federal mandates to support LGBT employees and their families.”

More Fortune 500 companies implemented inclusive workplace non-discrimination policies than ever before — 91 percent provide explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 61 percent on the basis of gender identity.  Sixty-seven percent offer same-sex partner benefits, another record.

In the first CEI 12 years ago, 13 businesses earned a 100 percent. After two revisions to the scorecard in the following decade, major businesses kept apace and competed with one another, leading to the 304 top performers. The top rated businesses span across industries, geographies and size.

“Corporate America has long recognized the imperative of LGBT inclusion by implementing their own LGBT-friendly policies ahead of lawmakers,” said HRC’s workplace equality program director Deena Fidas. “We are at the front of a new era in which major businesses are not only meeting ever-higher new bars for workplace fairness, they are exceeding them by becoming social and public policy change agents in the process. They recognize equality is not just the right thing to do, it is sound business practice.”

Still, according to HRC, too many of America’s top companies, particularly from the oil and gas, mining and manufacturing industries, are absent from the equality movement.

The report at a glance:

• In two years, the number of top-rated businesses has leapt from 189 to 304.

• A record 300 major businesses and law firms publicly supported pro-equality legislation at the state and federal levels, including those that took an active role in the marriage equality campaigns.

• The number Fortune 500 companies with non-discrimination policies that cover gender identity is at an all-time high.

• Transgender-inclusive health care coverage continues to rise and is becoming a bellwether for full inclusion. Now in its third year as a mandatory criterion for a company to earn 100 percent, 340 — 46 percent — participating companies offer comprehensive health care coverage to their transgender employees, up from 287 last year.

Ratings for businesses in the index listed as based in Wisconsin:

• Foley & Lardner LLP, 100.

• Rockwell Automation Inc., 100.

• Quarles & Brady LLP, 90.

• S.C. Johnson & Johnson Inc., 90.

• Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, 90.

• Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, 90.

• ManpowerGroup, 90.

• Alliant Energy Corp., 85.

• Johnson Controls Inc., 50.

• Wisconsin Energy Corp., 45.

• Oshkosh Corp., 15.

• Kohl’s Corp., 15.

• Harley-Davidson Inc., 15.

• American Family Insurance Group, 55.

• CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, 30.

ExxonMobil to offer spousal benefits to married gay employees

ExxonMobil, which for years has resisted appeals for change from shareholders and civil rights advocates, will recognize same-sex marriages and will offer health benefits to the spouses of gay employees.

However, the company has not amended its non-discrimination policy to ban bias based on gender identity or sexual orientation. And apparently it will not reinstate the domestic partnership program that Mobil offered before the merger.

In a statement, ExxonMobil said, “The decision is consistent with the direction of most U.S. government agencies. We have made no change in the definition of eligibility for our U.S. benefit plans. Spousal eligibility in our U.S. benefit plans has been and continues to be governed by the federal definition of marriage and spouse.”

“Granting health benefits to all married couples is a step toward equality, but it is certainly not the kind of leadership exhibited by ExxonMobil’s competitors,” said Deena Fidas, director the workplace equality program for the Human Rights Campaign. “There is no federal law protecting employees from discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity and ExxonMobil refuses to join the majority of their Fortune 500 colleagues in adopting their own such policies.”

Before the merger in 1999 between Mobil Corp and Exxon Corp., Mobil offered health benefits to domestic partners of its employees and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

When Exxon acquired Mobil, the non-discrimination policy was eliminated and the domestic partner benefits program was closed to new employees.

In HRC’s rating system for corporations, Chevron, BP, Shell and Spectra received scores of 85 or higher out of a possible 100. ExxonMobil received a minus 25 score. 

A growing number of companies are updating benefits policies to come into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a provision in a 1996 law that barred the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.

Walmart extends domestic-partner benefits to gay workers

The nation’s largest employer is extending its health care benefits to its workers’ domestic partners – including those of the same sex.

Walmart, which has long been a target of attacks by labor groups for its low skimpy wages and benefits, as well as other shoddy business practices, says the changes were made so it could have one uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions. Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies already offer domestic partner benefits.

Walmart defines domestic partners as spouses of the same or opposite gender, and unmarried partners who are not legally separated who have lived together for at least 12 months, are not married to anyone else, are in an exclusive relationship, and plan to continue sharing a household indefinitely, a spokesman says.

The move follows June’s Supreme decision overturning the 1996 federal law DOMA, which denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The gay blog Towleroad broke the news about Walmart yesterday after obtaining a leaked internal memo that Walmart’s senior vice president of benefits Sally Welborn sent to retail management. The memo read:

“It’s a business decision, not a moral or political decision. We operate in 50 states, hundreds of municipalities and Puerto Rico, and as clarified under the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), each of these states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partner, civil union, etc. By developing a single definition for all Walmart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we are able to ensure consistency for associates across our markets.

“The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “ObamaCare”) inextricably linked health insurance with employment. As such, for our associates for whom we offer health insurance, we want to be sure we are providing access to as many individuals and their families as possible.

“Given the diverse world we live in today, a comprehensive benefit package that includes domestic partner benefits appeals to the contemporary workforce. Many companies, including most of our competitors, already offer spouse/partner benefits to their employees. Of 30 retail competitors, all but two (Publix and Stop and Shop union plan) provide either same- or opposite-sex domestic partner coverage.

“Your behavior matters. The words you use also matter. We are counting on you to be thoughtful, supportive and understanding of multiple viewpoints. Your visibility can make a big difference to how associates feel.”

Leading companies push for ENDA before Senate committee consideration

The nation’s leading corporations pushed for passage of the long-pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act in advance of a Senate committee’s consideration of the legislation.

ENDA would provide workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, barring discrimination in hiring, firing, salary and promotions based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

This week, Hilton Worldwide became the 100th major corporation to join the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a Human Rights Campaign group advocating for ENDA.

Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, said, “Business leaders have long been pioneers for equality, and that continues to be the case in the wake of recent landmark marriage equality rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court. Employers know it’s just bad for business to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that’s why so many of the nation’s leading corporations are supporting ENDA. As the Senate begins consideration of this critical legislation, we must turn our enthusiasm into action that can have a meaningful impact on the lives of LGBT people.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, was scheduled to markup ENDA today (July 10).

About 75 percent of Americans support the measure, including 66 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents and 74 percent of Catholics, according to the HRC.

Supporters of ENDA include: 
Accenture Ltd., New York, NY
Alcoa Inc., New York, NY 
American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC
American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
Ameriprise Financial Inc., Minneapolis, MN
Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA
AMR Corp. (American Airlines), Fort Worth, TX
Bank of America Corp., Charlotte, NC
The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BNY Mellon), New York, NY
Barclays, New York, NY
BASF Corp., Florham Park, NJ
Bausch & Lomb Inc., Rochester, NY
Best Buy Co. Inc., Richfield, MN
Bingham McCutchen LLP, Boston, MA 
BMC Software Inc., Houston, TX
Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp., Ridgefield, CT 
BP America Inc., Warrenville, IL
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., New York, NY 
CA Technologies Inc., Islandia, NY
Caesars Entertainment Corp., Las Vegas, NV
Capital One Financial Corp., McLean, VA
Charles Schwab & Co., San Francisco, CA
Chevron Corp., San Ramon, CA
Choice Hotels International Inc., Silver Spring, MD
Chubb Corp., Warren, NJ
Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, CA
Citigroup, New York, NY
CC Media Holdings Inc./Clear Channel Communications, San Antonio, TX 
Clorox Co., Oakland, CA
The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, GA
Corning Inc., Corning, NY
Darden Restaurants Inc., Orlando, FL
Dell Inc., Round Rock, TX
Deloitte LLP, New York, NY 
Deutsche Bank, New York, NY
Diageo North America, Norwalk, CT
Dow Chemical Co., Midland, MI 
Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, NY
Electronic Arts Inc., Redwood City, CA
Eli Lilly & Co., Indianapolis, IN 
EMC Corp., Hopkinton, MA
Ernst & Young LLP, New York, NY
Expedia Inc., Bellevue, WA
Gap Inc., San Francisco, CA
General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, MN 
General Motors Corp., Detroit, MI
GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia, PA
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., New York, NY
Google Inc., Mountain View, CA
Hanover Direct Inc., Weehawken, NJ 
Herman Miller Inc., Zeeland, MI
Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, CA
Hillshire Brands Co., Downers Grove, IL
Hilton Worldwide, McLean, VA
Hospira Inc., Lake Forest, IL
HSBC – North America, Prospect Heights, IL
Hyatt Hotels Corp., Chicago, IL
Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc., Wilmington, DE
InterContinental Hotels Group Americas, Atlanta, GA
International Business Machines Corp., Armonk, NY 
Jenner & Block LLP, Chicago, IL
JPMorgan Chase & Co., New York, NY
Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA
KeyCorp, Cleveland, OH 
Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, San Francisco, CA 
KPMG LLP, New York, NY
Levi Strauss & Co., San Francisco, CA 
Marriott International Inc., Bethesda, MD 
Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., New York, NY
Merck & Co. Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ
Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA
MillerCoors Brewing Co., Chicago, IL
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Taylorsville, NC
Morgan Stanley, New York, NY 
Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, IL 
Nationwide, Columbus, OH 
The Nielsen Co., Schaumburg, IL
Nike Inc., Beaverton, OR
Oracle Corp., Redwood City, CA
Orbitz Worldwide Inc., Chicago, IL
Pfizer Inc., New York, NY
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, NewYork, NY
QUALCOMM Inc., San Diego, CA
RBC Wealth Management, Minneapolis, MN
Replacements Ltd., Greensboro, NC 
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, Minneapolis, MN
Ryder System Inc., Miami, FL
SUPERVALU Inc., Eden Prairie, MN
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund, New York, NY
Tech Data Corp., Clearwater, FL
Texas Instruments Inc., Dallas, TX
Thomson Reuters, New York, NY
Time Warner Inc., New York, NY
Travelers Companies Inc., New York, NY
US Airways Group Inc., Tempe, AZ
WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis, IN
Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, CA
Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, MI 
Xerox Corp., Stamford, CT
Yahoo! Inc., Sunnyvale, CA

Small employers that support fairness in the workplace and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
Ability Market, Morristown, NJ
All Pro Home Inspections, San Diego, CA
ALT Services Inc., Plano, TX
Americas Trade & Supply Co, Miami, FL
August eTech LLC, Hamilton Square, NJ
BancForce Financial Staffing, San Diego, CA
Calvert Group Ltd., Bethesda, MD
Classic Doors and Shutters Inc., Memphis, TN
Cooney, Daniel Fine Art, New York, NY
Corner Office Consultants, Tucker, GA
David W. Cropper Insurance Agency LLC, Alexandria, VA
Delucchi Plus LLC, Washington, DC
Emilio Robba Boutique, Coral Gables, FL
Environmental Waste Solutions Inc., Media, PA
Fair Measures Inc., Santa Cruz, CA
Floordesigns Inc., San Francisco, CA
Four Star Cargo Inc., Miami, FL
Frontline Data Group, Vienna, VA
Funny Boy Films LLC, Los Angeles, CA
Galerie, Hebron, KY
Greater San Diego Business Association, San Diego, CA
Green Ink Communications, Voluntown, CT
Hanlon Brown Design Inc., Portland, OR
Instant Signs of Santee, Santee, CA
Intersource Inc., Minneapolis, MN
Jennifer Brown Consulting LLC, New York, NY
Kell Consulting LLC, Louisville, KY
Leverage Technologies Inc., Breksville, OH
Masters Realtors Inc., Dallas, TX
McCown & Evans LLP, San Francisco, CA
Merge Media Group Gp LLC, Dallas, TX
Michael Chamness Co., Montpelier, ND
Michael Toomey Pa, Miami, FL
Mirage Images Inc., Chattanooga, TN
On-Site Productions Inc., Alexandria, VA
Osmosis Medialab Inc., New York, NY
P2p Staffing Corp., Coral Springs, FL
PinnaclePay Merchant Services Inc., Lawrenceville, GA
PocketNurse Enterprises Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
Prime Access Inc., New York, NY
Production Solutions Inc., Vienna, VA
Project Designworks, San Diego, CA
Pulse Communication Inc., New York, NY
Quorum, St. Paul, MN
Route 7 Productions Inc., Miami Beach, FL
RSF Execare, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Scoji Enterprises LLC, Natchitoches, LA
Scotwork, NA, Inc., Parsippany, NJ
Sky’s The Limit Consulting Inc., Estero, FL
Smart Women Co., St. Paul, MN
SQN Communications Design Inc., Vienna, VA
Stanley Sumner LLC, Miami Shores, FL
Trillium Asset Management, Boston, MA
Unique Impressions, Pheonix, AZ
Walden Asset Management, Boston, MA
Witeck-Combs Communications Inc., Washington, DC
Zebra Printing & Graphic Inc., Dallas, TX
Want to join the coalition? Go to 


ExxonMobil shareholders reject nondiscrimination policy

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

Responding, LGBT activists were critical of ExxonMobil for its refusal to join many other major companies and ban discrimination against LGBT people. They also were critical of the White House and Congress for failure to act on measures to ban workplace bias.

ExxonMobil, according to the Human Rights Campaign, lags behind most of corporate America on its nondiscrimination policy, including its closest competitors in the oil industry. Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in EEO policies and 57 percent include gender identity.

Chad Griffin, president of the HRC, said, “No company has proven itself a worse corporate citizen by betraying its LGBT employees time and again than ExxonMobil. By failing once more to do the right thing, ExxonMobil places itself firmly on the wrong side of history. Fair-minded consumers should take their business elsewhere.”

The activist group GetEqual said, “ExxonMobil continues to dig in its heels to prove that it is one of the most ardent proponents of LGBT discrimination in the country. While ExxonMobil rakes in billions of dollars in federal contracts each year — paid for with taxpayer money – it’s stunning that the company is so actively and blatantly out of step with the three-quarters of the American public who support LGBT workplace protections.”

Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. Before the merger, employees at Mobil were protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and the company also offered health benefits to domestic partners of employees.

Exxon acquired Mobil, eliminated the partnership benefits and removed the non-discrimination protections.

That fueled a boycott and also work by HRC, the New York City Pension Funds and other groups to change corporate policy through a resolution at the shareholders annual meeting. In 2011, the shareholder proposal received votes representing more than 500 million shares with a market value of more than $42.4 billion. This year, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli again sponsored the shareholder resolution.

Shareholders at the annual meeting also voted nearly 3-to-1 to reject a proposal to set goals to reduce emissions from its products and operations.

HRC’s Corporate Equality Index gave ExxonMobil a score of negative 25. Chevron, BP, Shell and Spectra received scores of 85 or higher.

In addition to pressing ExxonMobil to change its policy, LGBT leaders are calling on the president to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

HRC, in a statement, said, “As today’s actions show, when bad actors fail to protect their employees Americans need every tool available to protect them from workplace discrimination. ExxonMobil, as a federal contractor, would be forced to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy, allowing its LGBT employees to go to work every day without fear of being fired for who they are or who they love.”

Nation’s ‘best companies’ all have pro-gay policies

For the first time, all 100 companies on Fortune’s “Best Companies To Work For” list all have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

“It’s been gathering strength over the 15 years that we’ve done the survey,” said Milton Moskowitz, a co-author of the list.

Benefits for same-sex domestic partners are also on the rise. They are now offered by 89 of the 100 companies on the list – up from 70 just five years ago.

The Human Rights Campaign called the progress inevitable.

“It’s not surprising to me that the places that are ranked the best to work are also the ones that are going to respect and value their employees,” said HRC communications manager Michael Cole-Schwartz.

HRC says about 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. That’s up from 61 percent in 2002.

Sixty percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health benefits for same-sex domestic partners. A decade ago, the percentage was only 34.

QShare event shows the art of corporate diversity

No matter what happens in the political arena on Nov. 2, there’s one sector where activists say equality will continue marching forward undeterred: the corporate sector.

America’s companies, which rely on the quality of their workforce to succeed, have long been at the forefront of creating a welcoming environment for LGBT employees. The majority of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits for their employees, and the number grows incrementally each year.

Such gains are the result of on-the-job activism that extends from the nation’s boardrooms to its office water coolers. Robbin Burr, whose involvement in workplace activism spans three decades, will share her insights at an Oct. 28 luncheon at Manpower Global Headquarters, 100 Manpower Place. The sold-out event is sponsored by Cream City Foundation’s QShare.

“We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” Burr said.

Burr was a founding member of the American Airlines Rainbow Marketing TeAAm, one of the first corporate niche marketing efforts dedicated to the gay and lesbian market. After 25 years with American Airlines, she went on to serve for three years as executive director of Chicago’s Center on Halsted, where she spearheaded the organization through a successful $20-million capital campaign.

Burr currently serves as Prudential Insurance Company of America’s mid-America diversity relationship manager. At the QShare luncheon, she’ll present the lessons that Prudential has learned through its diversity programs targeting the LGBT community.

“So often people find themselves trying to reinvent the wheel in their workplace, and this luncheon is a great opportunity for them to learn about the best practices and things that are going on at other companies,” Burr said.

Also set to address the luncheon is David Alexander, director of institutional gifts at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. His experience includes assisting corporations such as IBM, Office Depot, General Mills, McDonalds and Wells Fargo in working with and engaging the LGBT community.

Burr said much of the progress toward equality is made not at the level of corporate policy but in the workplace itself, by people coming out to their co-workers and sharing their stories. “That’s where people’s lives are changed and their thoughts are changed,” she said. “There’s nothing more important.”