Wal-Mart offers healthcare benefits to employees' same-sex partners

The company's decision to update its healthcare policy may prompt other Fortune 500 companies to follow suit

By Samantha Stainburn
Published August 29, 2013 8:47PM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global PostWal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the United States, announced this week that it will extend healthcare benefits to workers’ same-sex partners starting Jan. 1, 2014.

In June, the US Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal.

Wal-Mart officials said the company’s new policy is intended to provide the same level of benefits for all Wal-Mart workers following the Supreme Court action.

"Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the US," spokesman David Tovar said.

Domestic partners of the same or opposite gender in an ongoing, exclusive relationship similar to marriage for at least 12 months with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely are eligible to receive healthcare benefits, Tovar told Reuters.

Currently, Wal-Mart’s healthcare plans cover about 1.1 million people.

According to Bloomberg News:

The switch after years of opposition may help tip the balance at companies such as trucker YRC Worldwide Inc. (YRCW), which is considering partner benefits for 2014, or Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), one of the biggest firms left without such coverage.

“They’re so big that everything they do sets an example,” Wallace Hopp, associate dean of faculty and research at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, told Bloomberg News.

About 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies offered healthcare to same-sex partners in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2002, according to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.

Samantha Stainburn

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Employee Benefits Gay Rights Globalpost Health Care Same-sex Marriage Wal-mart