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01/30/2015 02:36 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

ExxonMobil Adds Protections For LGBT Employees, But Advocates Skeptical Of Motivation

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After years of criticism and mounting pressure, ExxonMobil has finally added workplace discrimination protections for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.

As The Washington Blade's Chris Johnson reports, company spokesperson Scott Silvestri said both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" have now been added to the company's ExxonMobil’s U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity and Harassment in the Workplace policies.

“ExxonMobil supports a work environment that values diversity and inclusion, and has numerous inclusive programs and policies that help make ExxonMobil a great place to work,” Silvestri told the publication.

In the past, Exxon -- the nation's leading oil and gas company -- had received a score below zero on the Human Rights Campaign's ranking of corporate policies towards LGBT employees.

HRC and another leading LGBT advocacy organization received the news skeptically, arguing that the added protections were simply a response to President Barack Obama's July 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT discrimination rather than a shift in overall corporate values.

Exxon had to include these explicit workplace protections or risk losing its federal contracts,” Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Workplace Equality Program, said in a blog post on the HRC website.

Tico Almeida, founder and President of Freedom to Work, felt similarly, nonetheless calling the new policy "a good step."

"Exxon's management deserves little credit for finally adopting the LGBT fairness policies they have rejected year after year for almost two decades, but this is an important victory for the company's current LGBT employees and future LGBT job applicants," Almeida said in an email statement.

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