Walmart Settles Class Action Lawsuit Over Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

Walmart

Walmart settled a suit Friday that alleged the company had discriminated against LGBT employees by denying health insurance benefits to same-sex couples, reports The New York Times.

The class action lawsuit was settled for $7.5 million. The funds will be used to compensate around 1,000 people who were denied spousal benefits during the three years before the policy was amended. 

In a statement, Sally Welborn, a Walmart senior vice president, said: “We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution." "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.”

Making Change at Walmart, Pride at Work and UFCW OUTreach, released a statement in support of the settlement:

"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."

The lawsuit was filed by Jacqueline A. Cote from Massachusetts after the retail giant refused to give her spouse health benefits. Court documents obtained by USA Today show that Walmart's insurance policy "limited eligibility to spouses of the opposite sex until 2014, when it changed its policy to include same-sex spouses," reported the site. The next year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled against Walmart, claiming it had discriminated against Cote. 

Cote's sued Walmart claiming that it violated the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and theMassachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law, reported USA Today.

Walmart denied Cote's allegations, but representatives for the retail giant said they settled "in the interest of resolving this dispute between the parties without the significant expense, delay and inconvenience of further litigation."

"It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close," said Cote, about the settlement.

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