Feds: Wal-Mart biased against lesbians


ASSOCIATED PRESS: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of Jacqueline Cote for being “treated differently and denied benefits because of sex.”

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ASSOCIATED PRESS: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of Jacqueline Cote for being “treated differently and denied benefits because of sex.”

Cote tried to enroll her partner in Wal-Mart’s health plan repeatedly starting in 2008, but coverage was denied and the company didn’t provide it until 2014. In 2012, Cote’s wife, Diana Smithson, was diagnosed with cancer. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said it expanded its policy in 2014 to include same-sex couples.

“While we disagree with the finding of reasonable cause, we have notified the EEOC of our willingness to meet with them and Miss Cote to discuss resolving the matter,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said.

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In other Wal-Mart news, the company pledged to spend $1 billion to improve wages and training of its U.S. hourly workers.

As part of its biggest investment in worker training and pay ever, Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that within the next six months it will give raises to about 500,000 workers, or nearly 40 percent of its 1.3 million U.S. employees. Wal-Mart follows other retailers that have boosted hourly pay recently, but because it’s the nation’s largest private employer, the impact of its move will be more closely watched.

In addition to raises, Wal-Mart said it plans to make changes to how workers are scheduled and add training programs for sales staff so that employees can more easily map out their future at the company.

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