After drawing a great deal of criticism for its policies in relation to its lesbian and gay workers, Exxon Mobil Corporation, announced on Friday that it is extending its health insurance along with other benefits for employees to its same-sex married couples, with an effective date of October 1.
This move is a big about face from the company’s prior policies, which had defied human rights groups, shareholders and pension funds pressure asking it to protect lesbian and gay employees from being discriminated against in the U.S.
However, the latest change by Exxon for same-sex benefits did not come about because of a change of heart. Rather, it said it decided to follow policies of the U.S. government, which recently has started to issue changes in rules and guidance on the way gay couples are treated following the monumental decision by the Supreme Court in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Department of Labor, last week, issued a guidance that said all same-sex couples that were legally married were entitled to all the same protections as couples that had spouse of the opposite sex.
An important note is that employers have no requirement to provide any benefits to spouses for healthcare, but if that is offered, the Labor Department said that spouses of same-sex marriages should receive equal treatment.
Exxon, whose employee benefit cover more than 77,000 employees plus retirees in the U.S., said it has always looked at the federal laws in the U.S. for its guidance.
Many different federal agencies have started giving guidance on the implication of the Supreme Court’s ruling.