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Walmart settles class action suit over same-sex married employees

Photo credit:
ABC News

Walmart has settled a class-action lawsuit against them, setting aside $7.5 million to compensate same-sex couples who were denied medical benefits 

Prior to 2014, Walmart did not provide health benefits to employees married to persons of the same-sex.

In 2008, Jacqueline (Jackie) Cote a Walmart employee tried multiple times to get her wife enrolled in the big box retailers medical plan, and was never successful in doing so. The company denied the application because of their policy against recognizing same-sex partners as beneficiaries.

In 2012, her wife Dee was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the couple accrued over $150,000 in medical expenses until her death in 2016.

 Jackie sued the company in a class-action suit, claiming they violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, the federal Equal Pay Act, and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices, something Walmart must adhere to by federal law.

Two years ago, Walmart changed their policy, but failed to offer compensation for those who already paid nominal fees in healthcare.

Today Walmart announced a settlement in that case, Cote et al. v. Wal-Mart, an estimated 1000 people may get the payout. 

 Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), the national campaign to change Walmart into a more responsible employer, along with Pride at Work and UFCW OUTreach said in a statement that they are pleased to hear Walmart has admitted to wrongdoing and that they have agreed to abide by anti-discrimination policies, “and to make those who have been discriminated against whole.”

They add:

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.

Sally Welborn, a senior vice president of Walmart says the company is happy both sides came together to reach a solution. 

“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," she said. 

The settlement will have to be approved by the judge in the case, something that could take a few weekds.