Gus Kenworthy
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Walmart Adds Benefits Platform for LGBTQ+ Employees

Walmart

Giant retailer Walmart, which has a complicated history with its LGBTQ+ employees, has announced the addition of a benefits platform to help connect them with supportive health care.

Walmart workers and their dependents who are covered by one of the company’s medical plans will now be able to take advantage of Included Health, which offers “concierge services that specialize in connecting LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones with quality, affirming care,” says a Walmart press release, issued Monday.

In addition to assisting in the search for supportive health care providers, Included Health’s “care coordinators” will be a source of advice on coming out at work, understanding insurance benefits, and parenting LGBTQ+ youths, according to the release. The service also offers “specific support” for gender-affirming care.

“As we continue to emerge from last year’s challenges in social justice and global health, I’m hopeful for the future,” says the release from Lisa Woods, Walmart’s vice president for physical and emotional well-being. “We learned a lot together, and if there are silver linings to be found, I believe one is a deepened sense of collective dedication to creating a world that’s inclusive and truly values diversity in all its forms. As we strive for a more equitable future for all, we cannot offer one-size-fits-all solutions. … Over the past year, we’ve doubled down on our commitments to inclusive well-being by growing the suite of benefits aimed at meeting the needs of all our associates and their families.”

Walmart has a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, having risen from a score of just 14 in 2002, the first year the index came out.

The company, however, has been sued for alleged anti-LGBTQ+ and specifically anti-transgender discrimination. In 2016 it settled a lawsuit brought over denial of health insurance to employees’ same-sex spouses, and in 2018 it settled a suit from a trans woman in North Carolina who said she was fired for complaining about harassment. The company did not admit wrongdoing and said it does not tolerate discrimination.

The retailer has run ads featuring positive images of LGBTQ+ people, and recently the heirs of its founder, Sam Walton, created a fund to support LGBTQ+ rights in Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered. But the company and many others have also been criticized for contributing to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. Walmart’s low wages have drawn criticism as well, but it announced raises for many workers this spring. The company employs about 1.5 million people overall, making it the largest private-sector employer in the U.S.

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