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Jacqueline Cote & Walmart Announce Class Settlement Over Insurance For Same-sex Spouses

BOSTON, Dec. 2, 2016  — Former Walmart associate Jacqueline Cote and her lawyers filed a motion today asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to grant preliminary approval of a class action settlement in Cote’s action that challenged Walmart’s lack of health insurance benefits for same-sex spouses of Walmart associates prior to 2014.

The case is known as Jacqueline Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 15-cv-12945-WGY (D. Mass.).

The $7.5 million proposed settlement would pay for claims by Walmart associates in the United States and Puerto Rico that they were unable to obtain health insurance coverage for their same-sex spouses from Walmart from Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2013, as well as the costs of administering the settlement and legal fees and expenses. In 2014, Walmart voluntarily made the same health insurance benefits available to same-sex spouses of its associates that it offered to opposite-sex spouses. As part of the proposed settlement, Walmart commits to continuing to do so in the future.

The proposed settlement class is expected to include no more than a few thousand current and former Walmart associates. Walmart employs nearly 1.5 million associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Sally Welborn, Senior Vice President, Global Benefits for Walmart, said, “We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution. Respect for the individual, diversity and inclusion are among the core values that made Walmart into the company that it is today. We will continue to not distinguish between same and opposite sex spouses when it comes to the benefits we offer under our health insurance plan.”

Cote said, “I’m pleased that Walmart was willing to resolve this issue for me and other associates who are married to someone of the same sex. It’s a relief to bring this chapter of my life to a close.”

Cote is represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Outten & Golden LLP, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs (WLC), and Arnold & Porter LLP.

Janson Wu, GLAD’s Executive Director, said, “This is an important settlement for LGBTQ workers.”

Juno Turner, a Partner at Outten & Golden LLP, said, “We are pleased that class members will have the opportunity to receive compensation.”

Peter Romer-Friedman, a Counsel at Outten & Golden LLP, said, “We are glad that as part of the settlement Walmart will continue to provide the same health insurance benefits regardless of the gender of the associate’s spouse.”

Jonathan Smith, the WLC’s Executive Director, said, “We believe the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable and are pleased we could announce it today. We are pleased to have worked with our colleagues at GLAD, Outten & Golden, and Arnold & Porter to achieve this settlement.”

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Media contacts for Plaintiff: Carisa Cunningham, GLAD, (617) 426-1350; Georgia Willett, Outten & Golden, (212) 245-1000; Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC for Outten & Golden, (281) 703-6000.

Contact for Walmart: Randy Hargrove, (800) 331-0085.

Contacts for Plaintiff and her attorneys: Gary Buseck and Allison Wright, GLAD, (617) 426-1350; Juno Turner and Peter Romer-Friedman, Outten & Golden, (212) 245-1000; Matthew Handley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs (202) 319-1000