NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will extend its health care benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1.
The nation’s largest private employer said Tuesday that the changes were made so it could have one uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Wal-Mart defines domestic partners as same-sex or opposite sex spouses, and unmarried partners who are not legally separated who have lived together for at least 12 months, are not married to anyone else, are in an exclusive relationship and plan to continue sharing a household indefinitely, says Randy Hargrove, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
The decision was announced Monday by Sally Welborn, Wal-mart’s Senior Vice President of Benefits, in a memo to employees:
It’s a business decision, not a moral or political decision. We operate in 50 states, hundreds of municipalities and Puerto Rico, and as clarified under the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), each of these states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partner, civil union, etc.
By developing a single definition for all Walmart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we are able to ensure consistency for associates across our markets.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter has 1.3 million full-time and part-time U.S. workers. More than half of the workers participate in health care plans, the company says. About 1.1 million Wal-Mart workers and family members combined participate in Wal-Mart’s health care plan.
Employees can enroll their domestic partners from Oct. 12 through Nov. 1.