Walmart to Offer Domestic-Partner Benefits

By Chris Hoenig and Barbara Frankel

Photo by trekandshoot /

After years of urging by DiversityInc and the Human Rights Campaign, the world’s largest retailer is going to offer health-insurance benefits to domestic partners, including same-gender partners, starting next year.

Walmart officials say the decision was spurred by a need for consistency after June’s Supreme Court rulings that both forced the federal government to recognize same-gender marriage and overturned a ban on same-gender marriage in California. “Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Walmart associates in the U.S.,” company spokesman David Tovar said.

Walmart was on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2005 and 2007. In 2008, DiversityInc determined that any company that did not offer same-gender domestic-partner benefits could not be on the list. Since then, Walmart has continued to share its data with DiversityInc and to work to be a diversity leader but has been ineligible for the list.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer same-gender domestic-partner benefits.

Walmart’s benefits packages, which were already slated to include free heart and spine surgeries and hip- and knee-joint replacements at some hospitals, will also be expanded to offer vision coverage for eligible employees and their dependents. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for people’s benefits, so we’re trying to offer a number of benefit options and then let associates make choices on what’s best for them,” Tovar said.

With 1.3 million employees, the company is the largest single employer in the United States outside of the federal government. Walmart officials say more than half of those workers are on the current health plans, with a total of 1.1 million employees and family members receiving coverage.

A postcard outlining changes to company policies was mailed out to employees this week. Same-gender couples will be able to begin signing up for coverage on Oct. 12, less than two weeks after enrollment begins for those seeking individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Walmart officials said the company had anticipated some of the changes that the new healthcare law will bring, including the requirement that coverage be offered to some part-time workers, and had already made adjustments. Walmart’s part-time employees are eligible for coverage after one year with the retailer, provided they work a minimum average of 30 hours per week.

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