An American gay rights group has claimed that retail giant Wal-Mart has a poor history on protecting the rights of its LGBT employees.

This comes as the company steps up its plans to open several stores in New York City. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has joined up with labour unions and various small businesses to form a body to oppose Wal-Mart’s expansion plans in the city.

In a statement the Task Force said: “With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees.”

According to the group, Wal-Mart denied employee benefits to same-sex partners and fail to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

However, Steven Restivo, a spokesman for the company, claimed this was not the case, stating that the they were aware of and sensitive to the needs of their LGBT employees. Mr Restivo reportedly said: “Diversity and inclusion are enduring values that are fundamental to our culture, which includes a focus on having respect for our colleagues and customers.”

The company is said to be interested in opening stores in Brooklyn and claim that a self-funded study revealed that New Yorkers “overwhelmingly” supported their move into the city, despite counter-claims in a report issued by public Advocate Bill de Blasio that it would destroy small businesses.