US: Walmart sued for not providing health benefits to same-sex spouse

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Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed a complaint Friday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a Walmart employee who was denied benefits for her same-sex spouse.

GLAD filed the complaint on behalf of Jacqueline Cote, an associate at the Swansea, Massachusetts Walmart who, for six years, attempted to have her same-sex spouse added to her healthcare plan.

From 2006 through 2012 Cote attempted to add her wife, Diana Smithson, to her health insurance during Walmart’s open enrollment, but the system refused to allow her to enter Smithson as her spouse because she was female.

When Cote called Walmart’s home office she was told the company does not provide health coverage to same-sex spouses.

GLAD claims that the refusal violates both state and federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sex.

Janson Wu, senior staff attorney at GLAD, said that the treatment of Cote and Smithson is a clear case of Walmart treating their LGBT employees differently.

He said: “All Jackie wanted was to be treated like all other Walmart employees and to take care of her spouse. Instead, Walmart chose to discriminate against its gay and lesbian employees.”

Prior to GLAD’s complaint, Walmart changed their healthcare policy to include same-sex spouses in compliance with the Affordable Care Act this year.