This week, Walmart employees will receive a postcard in the mail with news that could be irrelevant or that could be life-changing. At the beginning of next year, the company will join most of the rest of the Fortune 500 in offering health, vision, and dental insurance benefits to the domestic partners of employees who are eligible.
The information first hit the Internet in the form of a leaked memo, and then the company confirmed the change. Walmart is adding new family members to is health insurance rolls at the same time that some other companies, like UPS, are tossing employees’ spouses off them.
The company claims that offering health insurance to domestic partners doesn’t really show that the company has become any more supportive of gay rights: both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners are eligible. The company’s official explanation is that they wanted to have consistent rules about who gets insurance across all 50 states and Puerto Rico, even if most states don’t allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
The company estimates that about half of their 1.3 million employees in the United States now get health insurance through the company.