Walmart to pay out $7.5 million in lawsuit which denied gay couples equal health benefits

Wal-Mart has agreed to pay out $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit which has accused the company of discriminating against gay workers.

Employees complained that by failing to extend health insurance benefits to cover their partners, they were being discriminated against.

Walmart to pay out $7.5 million in lawsuit which denied gay couples equal health benefits

Over a thousand current and former workers were affected by the policy which denied same-sex couples heath benefits between 2011 and 2013.

The lawsuit was filed not long after same-sex marriage became legal across the US, in July 2015.

Jacqueline Cote, an employee of the superstore, led the lawsuit as she argued that Wal-Mart’s failure to extend health insurance to her wife violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as state law in Massachusetts which covered fair-employment.

In the first stages, the case was taken by Cote and her partner to the US equal Employment Opportunity Commission which stated Wal-Mart’s policy was unlawful sex discrimination.

Same-sex couples were granted health benefits at the start of 2014, but many gay couples had racked up huge healthcare bills in the two year period prior, which they could not pay for out of pocket.

Cote’s own wife had over $150,000 in bills fighting ovarian cancer, and so the lawsuit seeked out reparations for before the policy was introduced.

Walmart expects a small fraction of it’s 1.5 million employees to receive a payout from the $7.5 million sum, but an exact number has yet been determined.

The Wall Street Journal predicted about 1,100 employees would have access to the money.

A joint statement was released by the company and Cote.

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

Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of Global Benefits, 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 Wal-Mart into the company that it is today.”