With the pandemic hitting the oil industry hard, former employees allege that ExxonMobil changed its employee review process in April to let workers go without relying on traditional layoffs, according to a Business Insider report.  
Despite reporting a first-quarter loss of $610 million, a 126% decrease from the same time period last year, after a plunge in the price of oil, Exxon CEO Darren Woods said at the annual shareholder meeting in May that the company would not make layoffs and that it would cut ties with contractors and service firms to decrease costs.
However, Business Insider cites two unnamed former employees as saying the change to the review process, which will likely lead to more performance-based cuts, is a way of terminating employees without announcing layoffs.
Exxon categorizes its employees based on their performance and employees at the lowest rank “Needs Significant Improvement” are at the risk of being terminated, according to internal documents. 
In April, Exxon reportedly increased the number of employees required to be assigned to the “Needs Significant Improvement” category from a minimum of 3% to 8% and extended it to include new employees. 
An Exxon representative told Forbes, "we do not have any plans for layoffs at this time, and we do not have a target to reduce headcount through our talent management process," adding, "employees who need significant improvement are given a plan and opportunities to improve their performance."
The documents show that people who have been at the company for less than two years are asked to leave the company if they are placed in the lowest ranking — as was the case for the two former employees who lost their jobs despite reportedly being told that they wouldn’t have to worry about the rankings initially because they were new hires. 
"Up until yesterday, I was not provided any constructive feedback or reason to believe my work would put me in the bottom bracket," said one of the former employees, who was told he was in the bottom 8% and would be forced to resign. "Don't let the performance metrics fool you. It was definitely a layoff."