Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC) have filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart, charging the retail giant with discriminating against employees who were married to same-sex spouses by denying their spouses health insurance benefits. The Complaint was filed this morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and can be read here.The couple has been together for 33 years.
The lawsuit, Jacqueline Cote, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the first class action filed on behalf of gay workers since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, and alleges that Walmart violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act by discriminating against Jaqueline Cote based on her sex. The action seeks to demonstrate how existing federal law can be used to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) workers.
The class representative, Jacqueline (Jackie) Cote, works in Walmart's Swansea, MA store, and was denied spousal health insurance for her wife, Diana (Dee) Smithson. Dee has battled ovarian cancer since 2012. Due to Walmart's sex discrimination, Dee lacked health insurance to pay for her treatment and has racked up a minimum of $150,000 in uninsured medical expenses.