Wal-Mart to Pay $7.5M to Settle Same-Sex Benefits Suit

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By Kevin McGowan

Dec. 2 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. settled for $7.5 million a class action claiming the company unlawfully discriminated against gay and lesbian employees by denying health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses ( Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , D. Mass., No. 15-12945, proposed settlement 12/2/16 ).

The company changed its policies in January 2014 to provide benefits to employees’ same-sex spouses.

But the proposed settlement submitted Dec. 2 would compensate employees affected by the denial of same-sex benefits during the three years preceding 2014.

The proposed settlement still must be reviewed and approved by a federal judge in Massachusetts.

The proposed class is expected to include approximately a few thousand current and former Wal-Mart associates, according to a joint statement from Wal-Mart and Jacqueline Cote, the named plaintiff in the class lawsuit.

“We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution,” said Sally Welborn, the company’s senior vice president for global benefits.

“Respect for the individual, diversity and inclusion are among the core values that made Walmart into the company that it is today,” Welborn said in the Dec. 2 statement. “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.”

“I’m pleased that Walmart was willing to resolve this issue for me and other associates who are married to someone of the same sex,” Cote said in the statement. “It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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