Walmart agreed to settle a lawsuit Friday with present and former employees over claims that the company refused to pay for health insurance benefits for same-sex spouses.
The accusations, which have been refuted by the retail giant, were brought up by a former employee, Jacqueline A. Cote of Massachusetts, as a class-action lawsuit in 2015. She claims Walmart continually refused coverage for her wife.
The $7.5 million settlement will be paid to “no more than a few thousand current and former Walmart associates,” who could not obtain health insurance coverage for their partners between 2011 and 2013.
The terms of the settlement are still awaiting confirmation by the United States District Court in Massachusetts.
Walmart consistently denied allegations, but that they would agree to the lawsuit “in the interest of resolving this dispute between the parties without the significant expense, delay and inconvenience of further litigation.”
The claims accused the retailer of violating the Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act and Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2015 that Walmart had in fact discriminated against Cote because of her sex.
The $7.5 million will be divided among current and former employees named in the lawsuit to cover legal expenses and reimbursements for potential damages, including insurance claims left unfulfilled between 2011 and 2013.
Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits for Walmart, said in a joint press release Friday:
“Respect for the individual, diversity and inclusion are among the core values that made Walmart into the company that it is today.
“We will continue to not distinguish between same and opposite-sex spouses when it comes to the benefits we offer under our health insurance plan.”
Cote expressed relief for herself and other employees in the suit, saying, “It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close.”