Wal-Mart Health Benefits Move Seen As a Gay Rights Win

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Wal-Mart said health benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners will start in January.

“This could have a knockdown effect in states where they do operate,” Elliott said. “This may actually spur the company that doesn’t offer domestic benefits to offer them … just as a means to be competitive.”

Currently, 62 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 offer medical benefits to employees’ spouses and partners, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index.

Fidas said the percentage has remained about 60 percent for a number of years.

“So it’s significant whenever we get a major business like Wal-Mart extending partner benefits,” she said.

It’s unclear how many of Arkansas’ publicly traded companies offer health benefits to their workers’ domestic partners.

Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock said it has been offering benefits to domestic partners for more than a decade.

Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock said it doesn’t comment on personnel matters. J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell also declined to comment.

But the 2013 Corporate Equality Index shows Dillard’s, Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale and Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado don’t offer health benefits to their workers’ partners.

Tyson and Murphy Oil didn’t respond to an email request for comment.

The Wal-Mart Definition

Hargrove, the Wal-Mart spokesman, said that a number of municipalities and states have their own definitions of marriage, domestic partners and civil unions, so Wal-Mart decided to define it for its workers.

“By us developing a single definition for all of our associates in the U.S., we’re going to be able to ensure consistency for our associates in various markets,” Hargrove said. “They will know what the company policy is, … whether they are in a state in the East Coast or West Coast.”



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