Boston, MA. Wal-Mart Pays $7.5 M to settle same sex couple discrimination case
Wal-Mart has set aside $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit affecting roughly 1,100 of its gay and lesbian employees charging that the retailer denied health insurance benefits to same sex spouses.
The individuals eligible for spousal benefits will be employees at the job between January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013. According to the New York Times, this settlement will make it “easier for gay and lesbian plaintiffs to prevail in court, as federal civil rights laws prohibit sex discrimination.”
“We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution,” a Wal-Mart spokesman “We will continue to not distinguish between same- and opposite-sex spouses when it comes to the benefits we offer under our health insurance plan.”
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This Wal-Mart settlement is not final. It must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young for the District of Massachusetts.
Lawyers for Jacqueline Cote, the lead plaintiff, said that Wal-Mart had discriminated against Cote because she was married to a woman. Wal-Mart did not attempt to argue that the arguments were flawed. Cote has worked for Wal-Mart for around 17 years. She married Diana Smithson, another Walmart associate, in Massachusetts 12 years ago.Smithson left the employment of Wal-Mart eight years ago to care for Cote’s mother. Cote tried to add Smithson to her Wal-Mart health insurance plan as her spouse, but the retailer refused to allow Smithson to be added to the policy, because Wal-Mart’s corporate policy was not to insure same sex spouses.
To compound the problem, in 2012 Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the couple incurred $150,000 in medical expenses that Wal-Mart should have covered.
Wal-Mart has now agreed to fully reimburse current or former employees in same sex couples who were affected by its policy for the applicable out-of-pocket cost of their spouse’s health care from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2013. Employees will have to document their medical expenses. Wal-Mart also agreed to pay 250% of out-of-pocket costs for those who submit documentation for expenses of $60,000 or more in health care expenses for their spouse.
Wal-Mart says it will treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally under its health benefits plan. Same-sex spouses have been eligible for health policies at Wal-Mart for two years, but the retailer said it had no legal obligation to do so.
What you can do: Wal-Mart says it will treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally under its health benefits plan. Same-sex spouses have been eligible for health policies at Wal-Mart for two years, but the retailer said it had no legal obligation to do so.
To read more, see this New York Times article: