Walmart is extending its health care benefits to its workers' domestic partners—including those of the same sex. America's largest private-sector employer, which has long been a target of attacks by labor groups for what they call skimpy wages and benefits, says the changes were made so it could have one uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions. Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies already offer domestic partner benefits.
Walmart defines domestic partners as spouses of the same or opposite gender, and unmarried partners who are not legally separated who have lived together for at least 12 months, are not married to anyone else, are in an exclusive relationship, and plan to continue sharing a household indefinitely, a spokesman says. "States have different definitions," he says. "We are going to have our own definition that will apply to our associates." The move follows June's Supreme Court decision to overturn a 1996 law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.