Walmart has been better than many in implementing fairness policies on a number of issues including same-sex marriage and benefits. There are still a few bugs in the system and, unfortunately, lawyers and judges are involved.
A Wal-Mart Stores Inc employee sued the retailer on Tuesday, saying its prior policy of denying health insurance to the spouses of gay employees violated gender discrimination laws. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks nationwide class-action status. Wal-Mart, the largest private U.S. employer, began offering health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to married gay couples. Even after that change, the lawsuit says, Wal-Mart workers still live with the uncertainty of losing spousal coverage. "Benefits provided by Wal-Mart as a matter of grace ... are not secure and could potentially be withdrawn just when large health care costs are incurred," the lawsuit says. Jackie Cote, who has worked at Walmart stores in Maine and Massachusetts since 1999, said in the lawsuit that her wife, Diana Smithson, developed cancer in 2012 and the denial of insurance led to more than $150,000 in medical debt. Cote and Smithson were married in Massachusetts in 2004, days after a court ruling made the state the first to allow gay nuptials. Smithson worked for Wal-Mart until 2008, when she left to care for Cote's elderly mother, according to the lawsuit. The company then repeatedly denied requests by Cote to add her wife to her insurance policy. Smithson is now in hospice care, Cote said. Last year, Cote filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a prerequisite to filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. The commission said in January that Wal-Mart violated gender discrimination laws by denying benefits to Smithson.
If Bill Maher were to write a new rule for this situation, he might fall back on the concept of a school teacher's gum for all rule. If a business treats employee A in a specific manner then that business must treat all employees in the same manner. How hard could that be? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

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