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EEOC ruling: Walmart discriminated against lesbian employee

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In 2013, Cote reached out to Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC the following year.

“If she was a woman married to a man, she would have been given spousal health benefits,” said Allison Wright, an attorney with GLAD who is representing Cote.

Wright said the next step will be attempting settlement negotiations with Walmart.

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“We’re estimating up to about $100,000 worth of medical expenses and other damages because of Walmart’s discriminatory denial,” she said.

Cote said the couple paid out of pocket for Smithson’s medical expenses in 2012, when Smithson lost her private health coverage, and up until Jan. 1, 2014, when Walmart’s expanded policy took effect.

The couple has “an inordinate amount of bills,” said Cote, who now works in Walmart’s Swansea, Massachusetts, store as an office associate. Smithson was in remission for 18 months but resumed chemotherapy treatments last month.

“I’m not only doing this for me,” Cote said. “I’m doing this for other gay and lesbian couples that have been discriminated against as well.”

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