Thursday, September 25, 2014

GLAD Sues Walmart

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), have filed a charge of discrimination against Walmart with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Jacqueline Cote. Cote, a Walmart employee who was denied spousal health insurance for her wife, Diana Smithson, currently battling ovarian cancer. That refusal GLAD alleges violates both state & federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Cote works as an associate in the Swansea, MA Walmart store. Starting in 2006 & continuing through 2012 she attempted to add Smithson to her insurance during Walmart’s open enrollment periods, trying to access a benefit available to other Walmart employees. Cote was particularly concerned about health insurance because of her wife’s health history, Smithson had had a bout with breast cancer in 1995. Cote stated, “I felt like a second-class employee. I had to keep trying; I wouldn’t give up.” But when Cote entered her spouse’s gender as “female,” the online system would stop her from proceeding further. When she called Walmart’s home office to investigate further, she was told that Walmart did not offer health insurance coverage to same-gender spouses. Janson Wu, senior staff attorney at GLAD stated, “All that Jackie wanted was to be treated like all other Walmart employees & to take care of her spouse. Instead, Walmart chose to discriminate against its gay & lesbian employees.” By the time Walmart ultimately announced that it would change its policy in 2013, which went into effect on January 1, 2014, Cote & Smithson had racked up medical bills topping $100,000 & have been hounded by bill collectors. Cote & Smithson have been together for nearly 23 years & were married in May 2004 as soon as it was legally possible.
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