By ARI EZRA WALDMAN
Two applicants apply for the same job -- Marketing Associate for EnormoCorp. The applicants, Alice and Barbara, are identical in some ways: same college, same gender, even the same hometown. But Alice is consistently superior in the relevant qualifications: Alice has a 3.8 GPA to Barbara's 3.2; Alice has been a Marketing Assistant for 5 years, Barbara for only 2; Alice's skills in Excel and other computer programs, all of which are listed in the job description as necessary for the job, is "excellent," but Barbara can only boast of "proficient" skills.
Alice's resume also notes that she is the treasurer of her local chapter of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Barbara does volunteer campaign work for Emily's List, the organization that helps elect women candidates.
If you ran human resources for EnormoCorp, you'd at least want to interview Alice first. She's the more qualified of the two applicants.
ExxonMobil does things a little differently. It discriminates against the LGBT applicant because it can.
In December of last year, the gay rights organization Freedom to Work and its founder, Tico Almeida, wanted to expose incident of Exxon's antigay discrimination. Mr. Almeida tested the company with two ghost applicants just like Alice and Barbara, and Exxon went for Barbara. In fact, Exxon didn't just opt for the non-gay candidate; when she never responded to their several calls to come in for an interview, Exxon never even contacted the gay applicant as a back up! Along with Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, Mr. Almeida is suing Exxon for violating Illinois's nondiscrimination laws. And they're going to win.
The most remarkable thing about this case is not that it highlights the need for a federal LGBT nondiscrimination act. Nor is it that this kind of discrimination happens every day. Those facts are, in fact, quite unremarkable. Rather, what's amazing is that even though the technique of sending in "testers" like Alice and Barbara has been outrageously successful in identifying and stopping discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, the disabled, and other protected groups, this is the first time it has been used to advance the cause of gay rights.
I will be following this case every step of the way, bringing you updates and progress reports, as well as insights into the employment discrimination litigation process.
I start with the basics: how this case came about and why it's so important,
AFTER THE JUMP...