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Wal-Mart Faces Discrimination Lawsuits for Denying Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses

In recent years, advocates for the LGBT community have helped make great strides against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender and marital status.

Nonetheless, there is still work to be done, and a burgeoning class action against the Wal-Mart corporation highlights the possibly discriminatory policies with regard to employee leave, short-term disability, and similar benefits allegedly denied same-sex spouses.

According to the details released so far, the representative plaintiff was working as an office associate at a Wal-Mart in Massachusetts – a state which has recognized same-sex marriage since 2003. Allegedly, the plaintiff was unable to procure healthcare coverage for her partner – despite being legally married since 2004 – due to Wal-Mart’s policy against offering insurance to same-sex spouses.

From 2012-2014, the plaintiff’s partner endured the effects of aggressive ovarian cancer and was required to obtain a separate insurance policy to cover the costs of her care, which resulted in a much higher premium and deductible than would have been available through her spouse’s plan.

Of course, a resolution to a matter of this magnitude is far off, however the case brings to light a myriad of issues that are likely to develop following the Supreme Court’s historic decisions in both Obergefell v. Hodges and Windsor v. United States.

Namely, federal courts have yet to decide a direct claim alleging intrusion upon religious freedom versus the fundamental right to marry – a case which is sure to bring about unprecedented contentious involvement from proponents on both sides of the issue.

For now, however, the law is clear: employers cannot discriminate against those in a same-sex marriage regardless of corporate policy or opposing viewpoints. Therefore, any worker facing this type of issue should consider speaking with a White Plains discrimination lawyer right away.

Launch a Benefits Discrimination Claim

As was the case in the upcoming class against Wal-Mart, the plaintiff began her litigation by filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In most cases, litigants with an employment discrimination claim must first present their grievance to the EEOC prior to initiating a lawsuit in federal court.

At this preliminary stage, the EEOC will review the allegations, speak with the parties, and attempt to arrange a settlement or agreement on the issues. If that proves futile, it will issue a “Right to Sue” letter, which essentially provides the plaintiff with permission to begin the federal district court litigation process.

A wrongful denial of benefits claim would generally fall within the following categories of law:

 The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against sex-based discrimination
 The Equal Pay Act, which requires equal pay for equal work
 State employment fairness laws, which in this case fall under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act

Depending on the nature of the claims, denial of benefits allegations could also fall under a wide range of other laws, particularly if the denial is based on race, religion, or a similar protected personal factor.

Contact Our White Plains Discrimination Lawyers For Help

If you are concerned about a recent denial or reduction of benefits at your job and would like to discuss your rights with a knowledgeable attorney, please do not hesitate to contact Lynch, Schwab & Gasparini, PLLC by calling 914-304-4353.

Posted on August 28, 2015 in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination