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Walmart Accused of Denying Benefits to Gay Employee’s Spouse

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

Correction appended

A gay Walmart employee has filed a class-action complaint against the retail giant, claiming that it denied her wife health insurance benefits.

Jacqueline Cote, 52, a Walmart employee from Massachusetts, has taken the company to court for failing to alter their benefits policy to include same-sex spouses immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, Bloomberg reports.

The retailer only began extending such benefits in January 2014—nearly six months after DOMA was overturned—at which point, Cote argues, her wife, Diana “Dee” Smithson, had already spent over $150,000 on uninsured medical expenses while battling ovarian cancer. Cote also claims the company violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a Massachusetts fair employment law.

Brian Nick, a spokesman for Walmart, wrote to Bloomberg in an email that “[Walmart’s] benefits coverage previous to the 2014 update was consistent with the law.” Cote’s case will be the first class-action suit of its kind since the Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that state prohibitions on gay marriage were unconstitutional, her lawyers claim.


Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of the plaintiff. She is Jacqueline Cote.

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