Apr 23, 2022 - Economy & Business

Exxon clarifies flagpole rule ahead of Pride month

an American flag, an ExxonMobil flag, an ExxonMobil Pride flag against blue sky with white clouds
An image of the Exxon Mobil "Pride" flag flown last year in Illinois. Photo: Exxon

Workers at Exxon Mobil are refusing to represent the global energy company at an upcoming Pride celebration in Houston, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Internal response to Exxon’s policy change is one example of workers expanding their voice and power to social issues.

  • Disney employees walked out in March after the company’s initial response on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Driving the news: The backlash inside Exxon is in response to an updated company policy that specifies the kinds of flags that can be flown on flagpoles outside Exxon's global offices during designated celebratory months.

  • Those include Black History Month, Women's History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and LGBTQ Pride Month.

Details: Flags designed by the company’s employee affinity groups, including the LGBTQ employee group, can be flown.

  • In order to maintain a uniform look across corporate campuses, other flags related to celebratory months that are not designed inside the company cannot be flown.
  • There's no restriction on using or displaying the widely-recognized rainbow Pride flag in office windows, workspaces or on digital or social media.
  • The company's LGBTQ+ employee group flag consists of colorful dots with the word PRIDE displayed prominently in the center with the employee resource group underneath.

What they’re saying: “The updated flag protocol is intended to clarify the use of the ExxonMobil branded company flag and not intended to diminish our commitment to diversity and support for employee resource groups,” Tracey Gunnlaugsson, vice president of human resources, said in an emailed statement. 

  • On LinkedIn, the executive sponsor of Exxon's LGBTQ+ employee group wrote: "I am crushed that the recent news has hurt so many of you. I have spent 5 years as your proud sponsor, and watched with PRIDE as we grew our global reach, doubled our membership, increased ally engagement, supported career development, policy development, enhanced recruiting, and generally continued to grow our understanding of what it takes to be truly inclusive."
  • “While they may say nobody has lost anything, the symbolism is unmistakable,” J. Chris Martin, a former employee and head of the resource group, told The New York Times.

What to watch: Exxon is set to release its earnings report next week.

Go deeper