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Walmart Settling Same-sex Spousal Benefit Suit

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination through the denial of health benefits to the same-sex spouses of its employees across the nation, according to published reports


The 2015 lawsuit was filed in federal court in Boston by Jacqueline Cote, a Walmart employee at stores in Maine and Massachusetts since 1999. A court filing by Walmart and Cote’s lawyers said that the settlement money may be divided among more than 1,000 people who were denied spousal benefits between 2011 and 2014, when the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer changed its policy, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the legality of same-sex marriages. The settlement is subject to approval by a federal judge, which is expected to happen in a few weeks.


"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," noted Walmart SVP-Global Benefits Sally Welborn in a company statement regarding the settlement.


Cote contended in the suit that when her wife, Diana Smithson, a former Walmart employee herself, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, the company’s denial of insurance coverage resulted in more than $150,000 in medical debt. Smithson died last March.

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