Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wal-Mart sued in a same-sex discrimination lawsuit

Jacqueline Cote tried to enroll her spouse in Wal-Mart’s corporate health plan, but was rejected because her spouse is a female. Jacqueline and her wife Diana Smithson married in 2004 after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. Three years later, Smithson quit her job to take care of her ill mother. The following year, Cote tried to enroll Smithson on her healthcare plan, but was unsuccessful. Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012, and Cote was still unable to enroll her.
In 2014, Wal-Mart finally changed its medical policy to extend health benefits to same-sex couples, but by this time Smithson’s medical costs had reached over $150,000.  Neither Cote nor Smithson has the money to pay for these bills.
Cote and Smithson filed their suit in the US District Court in Boston. Prior to the lawsuit, Cote had filed a formal complaint against Wal-Mart with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC determined that the company’s refusal to cover Smithson “constituted discrimination.” The efforts to resolve the case out of court were unsuccessful.
Although the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, gay and lesbian couples still face discrimination in the workplace.