Over the years, Walmart has gained a strong reputation around the world for offering low prices and the convenience of having virtually everything you could possibly need under one roof. In turn, these factors have helped the company grow into the world's largest retailer with thousands of retail outlets spread across the United States, Mexico and numerous other countries.
As such a huge corporation, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that Walmart is continuously the target of lawsuits. In fact, some estimates place the total number of lawsuits that the company faces at around 3,000 per day, which equates to over 1 million cases a year. Of course, the vast majority of these lawsuits are frivolous, and as such, are thrown out before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. Nonetheless, while most of these lawsuits are of little concern to the retailer's legal teams, the company is also facing a number of class-action lawsuits that it is forced to take much more seriously.
Walmart's Same-Sex Discrimination Lawsuit
In 2015, former Walmart employee Jacqueline A. Cote filed a lawsuit against the retailer alleging discrimination against same-sex couples. As part of the suit, Cote and other former employees claim that Walmart denied healthcare coverage to the legal spouses of gay and lesbian employees. Although the company changed its policy in 2014, prior to this time, employees claim that they were discriminated against as their spouses were not offered health insurance due to their sexual orientation.
The Outcome of the Lawsuit
Walmart eventually chose to settle the lawsuit and agreed to pay a total of $7.5 million to former employees that were affected by its previous health insurance policy. However, the company never actually admitted fault in the case and instead simply claimed that it settled the suit to avoid the burden of having to go to trial. In addition to agreeing to the settlement, the retailer was also forced to make a pledge to treat all employees and their spouses equally when offering health insurance—regardless of their sexual orientation.
What the Lawsuit Means for Walmart Employees
As part of the class-action lawsuit, you could potentially be entitled to between $5,000 and $15,000 in compensation. If either you or your same-sex spouse was an employee of Sam's Club or Walmart anytime between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013, there is a chance that you are eligible to take part in the class-action suit and be compensated for the discrimination you faced.
How to Join the Class-Action Lawsuit
In order to participate in the class-action suit, it is first necessary to file a claim by submitting one of the two claim forms.
Long Form Claim. The long form claim is for those who wish to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket healthcare or insurance costs. When submitting this claim, you must show documentation specifically showing the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by your same-sex spouse during the three years covered by the lawsuit. These expenses can either be related due to healthcare costs incurred due to the spouse's lack of insurance or the costs related to purchasing insurance for the spouse. You could be eligible to be fully reimbursed for all of these costs, depending on how many people file claims. A total of $3.5 million is set aside for these long form claims. However, the amount each person receives will be reduced proportionally should the total value of long form claims exceed $3.5 million.
Short Form Claim. Employees that file the short form claim are eligible to receive compensation for the total number of months that their same-sex spouse should have been eligible for insurance. Employees may be eligible to receive up to $5,000 per year for a total of up to $15,000. However, the settlement amount will be proportioned based on the total number of claimants.
If you choose to file a long form claim, you will need to provide evidence that directly documents all of your out-of-pocket expenses related to your spouse being denied health insurance coverage. Alternatively, if you choose to file the short form claim, you will only need to provide proof that you were a Walmart employee during the time period covered by the suit.
As the world's largest private employer, Walmart obviously has a duty to treat its employees properly and ensure their needs are taken care of. Luckily, the law is on the side of the employees, and this particular class-action lawsuit should be great news for anyone who was discriminated against by the company due to their sexual orientation.
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