Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) & the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs (WLC) have filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart charging the retail giant with discriminating against employees who were married to same-gender spouses by denying their spouses health insurance benefits. The Complaint was filed Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The lawsuit, Jacqueline Cote, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the first class action filed on behalf of gay workers since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 & alleges that Walmart violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act by discriminating against Jaqueline Cote based on her sex. The action seeks to demonstrate how existing federal law can be used to protect LGBTQ workers. Allison Wright, GLAD Attorney stated, “Many LGBTQ people across the country live without explicit protections from employment discrimination. Strengthening protections for LGBTQ people under Title VII will help the poverty-stricken LGBTQ community achieve economic equality & will assist all LGBTQ workers in receiving equal treatment.” Jacqueline Cote works in Walmart’s Swansea, MA store & was denied spousal health insurance for her wife, Diana (Dee) Smithson. Dee has battled ovarian cancer since 2012. Due to Walmart’s sex discrimination, Dee lacked health insurance to pay for her treatment & has racked up a minimum of $150,000 in uninsured medical expenses. Jackie & Dee have been together for nearly 23 years & were legally married in May 2004 in Massachusetts.
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