WAL-MART Employee’s Domestic Partners To Receive Health Benefits

Full-time Associates in 2014 Can Cover LGBT Spouse or Domestic Partner

The world’s largest retailer and single largest employer outside of the federal government said on August 27 that it will offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners of its U.S. employees in all fifty states next year. Regardless of local laws that vary from state to state on same-sex marriage, Wal-mart spokesman David Tovar said, “since we operate in all fifty states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the United States.” Another spokesperson Randy Grove, stated that “by adopting a single definition, we’ll offer clarity and consistency for our associates.”

Wal-Mart, that, in the past has had human rights violations, is not only extending the usual health benefits, but is adding a vision plan, critical illness or accident plans, life insurance, and 100% coverage for some surgeries, including hip replacement and programs to quit smoking.

Conditions for Receiving Benefits

In a postcard that was sent to workers, employees were notified that the “full suite” of benefits will be available starting January 1. The sign-up period runs from October 12 to November 1. To qualify, the employees’ domestic partners can be covered if they are legal spouses, not legally separated or a domestic partner defined as “someone living in a relationship similar to marriage for at least twelve month with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely.”(Of course, the benefits also apply to heterosexual couples who are domestic partners.)

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, isn’t looking for proof from employees that they have met the requirements; they are working on an honor system. More than half of its 1.3 million U.S. employees are on its health-care plans. However, the company currently does not know how many employees will use either of the new benefits.

Policy Change

The policy change occurred after discussions within the company, but not the result of any board vote. The inclusion of LGBT domestic partners is regarded as a “business decision,” not a moral claim.

The company caused controversy when previously it halted plans to build stores in D.C. after the District passed a law requiring large retailers to pay at least $12 an hour to employees. Executive Director of the LGBT labor group Pride at Work, Darren Phelps, said he wants to see more from the company in terms of wages for employees.

According to Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index, Wal-mart previously offered an LGBT-inclusive policy, but lacked partner benefits and didn’t provide transgender-inclusive health insurance or LGBT competency training or resources. The implementation of domestic partnership benefits will improve the company’s rating on the HRC’s CEI score.