January 27, 2005
HRC Applauds Wal-Mart’s Inclusive Family Policy
'We hope that with equal responsibility come equal benefits,' said HRC's Daryl Herrschaft.
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign applauded Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest private employer, for a new definition of family that includes same-sex partners recognized under state law.
"We hope that with equal responsibility come equal benefits," said HRC's Daryl Herrschaft, deputy director for HRC's workplace project. "We are encouraged by this sign showing America's heartland employer understands same-sex couples share the responsibilities that come with being a family. It's only appropriate for these families to also receive the same benefits as others."
Wal-Mart's definition of "immediate family" was included in a conflict-of-interest policy the company filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A portion of the policy follows:
"You are responsible for advancing Wal-Mart's business interests when the opportunity to do so arises. You may not take any opportunities or use any confidential information for your benefit, or for the benefit of your immediate family members, that you discover or obtain through your employment with Wal-Mart. Immediate family members include (whether by birth, adoption, marriage or domestic partnership or civil union, if recognized by your state or other local law) your spouse, children, parents, siblings, mothers and fathers-in-law, sons and daughters-in-law and brothers and sisters-in-law."
"We will continue our work to encourage Wal-Mart and other companies to expand fair-minded policies to areas where same-sex couples are not recognized by law," added Herrschaft. "Without legal recognition of same-sex couples, employers' domestic partner programs are a critical way to ensure that every employee's family has equal access to healthcare, medical leave and other workplace-offered benefits. Companies that offer these benefits understand that the strength and stability of every employee's family life correlates with the quality of their work and the success of the business."
Currently 228 - or 45 percent - of Fortune 500 companies offer health care benefits to employees' same-sex domestic partners or spouses. The number has increased tenfold since 1995, when only 21 Fortune 500 companies offered the benefits. Wal-Mart competitors Costco Wholesale, Best Buy and Home Depot all offer domestic partner health benefits.
In July 2003, Wal-Mart expanded its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Currently, nine of the 10 top companies in the Fortune 500 include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and three of these companies also include protection against discrimination based on gender identity in their policies.
"Every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee deserves to be judged by the job they do, not who they are," said Herrschaft. "We urge Wal-Mart and other companies to add protections for transgender employees so that no employees are at risk for losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their work."
For more information on policies and workplace advocacy, visit HRC WorkNet.