The New York Times reports:
Walmart announced on Friday that it had settled a lawsuit that accused the company of discriminating against gay and lesbian employees when it denied health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses.
Under the deal, Walmart will set aside $7.5 million, mostly to compensate employees affected by the denial of spousal benefits during the three years before Jan. 1, 2014, when the company changed its policy. More than 1,000 people may be eligible.
But the agreement also signals how legal doctrine on discrimination against gays and lesbians is rapidly changing, making it increasingly likely to be considered a form of sex discrimination. Such a doctrine would generally 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,” Sally Welborn, a Walmart senior vice president, said in a statement. “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.”
Via press release:
Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), the national campaign to change Walmart into a more responsible employer, along with Pride at Work and UFCW OUTreach, a constituency group dedicated to building mutual support between the UFCW’s International, regions, and locals and the LGBT community and their allies, released the following statement today as the company announced a settlement in the the Cote et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. class-action lawsuit, which accused the company of discriminating against employees who were married to same-sex spouses by denying their spouses health insurance benefits.
“Actions speak louder than words, and until now, Walmart’s actions regarding LGBTQ workers’ and their spouses’ health benefits were discriminatory and hurtful. We are pleased to hear that Walmart has admitted wrongdoing in Cote et al. v. Walmart Stores, Inc., and that they have agreed to abide by anti-discrimination policies, and to make those who have been discriminated against whole. It is our hope that Walmart accepts how wrong they were so that not one more Walmart worker will have to experience such injustice and bigotry.
We congratulate Jacqueline for her bravery, and we hope she inspires other Walmart workers to come forward and speak up about intolerance. In addition, we hope that Walmart realizes that this is just a start, and that too many of its hard-working Walmart men and women face poverty-level wages, poor benefits and unfair workplaces. Now, more than ever, it is time for Walmart to wake up and change.”
Jacqueline Cote and Walmart Announce Class Settlement
Over Health Insurance Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses https://t.co/9RTa6xwYpO
— GLAD (@GLADLaw) December 2, 2016