Wal-Mart stores on Thursday redefined its company's definition of "immediate family" to include same-sex partners who are recognized under state law.
Wal-Mart, the country's largest private employer, included the definition of "immediate family" in a
conflict-of-interest policy the company filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"We hope that with equal responsibility come equal benefits," said Daryl Herrschaft, deputy director for the Human Rights Campaign's workplace project. "We are encouraged by this sign showing America's heartland employer understands same-sex couples share the responsibilities that come with being a family. It's only appropriate for these families to also receive the same benefits as others."
Currently 228--or 45%--of Fortune 500 companies offer health care benefits to employees' same-sex domestic partners or spouses. The number has increased 10-fold since 1995 when only 21 Fortune 500 companies offered the benefits. Wal-Mart competitors Costco Wholesale, Best Buy, and Home Depot all offer domestic-partner health benefits.
In July 2003, Wal-Mart expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Currently, nine of the 10 top companies in the Fortune 500 include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies, and three of these companies also include protection against discrimination based on gender identity in their policies.
"Every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employee deserves to be judged by the job they do, not who they are," said Herrschaft. "We urge Wal-Mart and other companies to add protections for transgender employees so that no employee is at risk for losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their work."