A lawsuit between Walmart and an employee fighting to get her wife health care coverage was settled on Friday, with Walmart promising to set aside $7.5 million to cover more than 1,000 people who lost out on health insurance due to the company’s discriminatory policies.
Jacqueline Cote, with the help of the national campaign Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) as well as Pride at Work and UFCW OUTreach, challenged Walmart for discriminating against same-sex couples by denying gay and lesbian spouses health insurance prior to 2014.
“I’m pleased that Walmart is willing to resolve this issue for me and other associates who are married to someone of the same sex,” Cote said in a news release. “It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close.”
Along with the monetary settlement, Walmart has also promised to continue offering health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses in the future.
“Actions speak louder than words, and until now, Walmart’s actions regarding LGBTQ workers’ and their spouses’ health benefits were discriminatory and hurtful,” MCAW said in a statement Friday. “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.”
The Senior Vice President of Global Benefits for Walmart, Sally Welborn, said, “We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution. Respect for the individual, diversity and inclusion are among the core values that made Walmart into the company that it is today. We will continue to not distinguish between same and opposite sex spouses when it comes to the benefits we offer under our insurance plan.”
Making Change at Walmart, the national campaign to ensure that Walmart becomes a more responsible employer, hopes that Walmart recognizes this settlement as a first step in making their stores a competent workplace for the nearly 1.5 million associates working with the company.
“We congratulate Jacqueline for her bravery, and we hope she inspires other Walmart workers to come forward and speak up about intolerance,” the MCAW statement continued. “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.”