Walmart settles $7.5 million in lawsuit for denying same-sex couples health benefits
Walmart on Monday has had a $7.5 million settlement approved in a class action lawsuit alleging that same-sex couples were denied equal health benefits.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman from New Bedford by GLAAD.
It was based on the US Supreme Court ruling which extended marriage to same-sex couples across all 50 states, and an earlier ruling which extended spousal benefits to all couples.
Jacqueline Cote had worked at Walmart for 15 years an initiated the lawsuit, but more than 300 other couples joined the suit making it class action.
The plaintiffs will split $5.5 million between them, as attorneys’ fees will be deducted.
US District Judge William G Young said the amount is fair for the lawsuit.
“This was a carefully crafted and sensible resolution of a complex matter, and it reflects well on the parties from both sides,” Young said, speaking from the bench on Monday.
Wal-Mart back in December agreed to pay out $7.5 million to settle the lawsuit.
Employees complained that by failing to extend health insurance benefits to cover their partners, they were being discriminated against.
Over a thousand current and former workers were affected by the policy which denied same-sex couples heath benefits between 2011 and 2013.
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Cote’s own wife had over $150,000 in bills fighting ovarian cancer, and so the lawsuit sought out reparations for before the policy was introduced.
She said in a statement on Monday: “I’m pleased that Walmart was willing to resolve this issue for me and other associates who are married to someone of the same sex. It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close.”
Sally Welborn, senior vice president for the company, said in a statement: “We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution . . . 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.”
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