The Home Depot Inc. plans to offer health insurance to same-sex domestic partners of its employees starting next year, the company said Thursday. Home Depot, the nation's largest home improvement chain with 1,802 stores and 300,000 employees, said in a statement that eligible employees will be able to enroll their domestic partners starting in October.
Atlanta-based Home Depot had previously offered domestic-partner benefits only in the areas of bereavement leave, medical leave, relocation expenses, and an employee assistance program, a spokesman said. Home Depot said the health care benefits package for domestic partners has been in development for about a year.
The chain has been criticized by some employees and human rights groups for not previously extending health care benefits to employees' domestic partners. In a statement issued Thursday, Cheryl Jacques, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said, "The Home Depot is finally putting its people first."
Also, the University of Pittsburgh has agreed to offer domestic-partner health coverage to its gay and lesbian employees as well as unmarried straight employees in committed relationships. "This is a very gracious turnaround by Pitt," said Witold "Vic" Walczak, litigation director for the ACLU's Pennsylvania affiliate. "Like so many organizations and businesses today, Pitt has finally recognized that lesbian and gay employees deserve equal treatment in the workplace."
A letter by university chancellor Mark Nordenberg notifying employees of the change in policy cites the need to remain competitive in the recruitment of "top talent" as a principal factor in deciding to provide the benefits. The letter points out that nearly 80% of the universities belonging to the Association of American Universities and two thirds of Fortune 100 companies now offer domestic-partner benefits.