Consider two fictitious female job candidates with nearly identical resumes, both vying for an administrative assistant position, one with better grades and a history of volunteering for a gay rights group.
At oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, hiring managers allegedly chased after the less qualified prospect while ignoring the applicant linked to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, according to a charge filed against the company Wednesday.
The complaint from nonprofit LGBT worker advocacy group Freedom to Work and law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, filed in the Illinois Department of Human Rights, accuses Exxon of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The so-called paired resume test is a tactic that has been used for decades, said Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The methodology mirrors a 2011 Harvard University study that found that LGBT candidates were 40% less likely than their heterosexual peers to land job interviews, he said.
"Exxon is an outlier that refuses to follow industry standards," Romer-Friedman said. "The concern is that it's one of the largest corporations in the world yet won't adopt an express policy prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination."
Exxon said in a statement that it is reviewing the filing and that its global policies and processes "prohibit all forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in any company workplace, anywhere in the world."
"In fact, our policies go well beyond the law and prohibit any form of discrimination," the company said.
But in another statement, Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida said the Texas company "stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work."
National gay rights group Human Rights Campaign gave Exxon a negative 25 score on its most recent rankings of major companies for its Corporate Equality Index. Many other firms landed higher than 80 on a scale of 100.
In its charge, Freedom to Work said that Exxon confirmed receipt of both fake resumes, which were sent in response to a December listing for a job in Illinois.
The group alleged that the candidate who volunteered for a feminist college group and earned a 3.9 grade-point average in college received more call-backs than the applicant with a 3.98 GPA and served as treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.