South-Western - Management  
New Wal-Mart Policy Protects Gay Workers
Topic Managing Human Resources
Key Words Discrimination, gay and lesbian employees
News Story 

Wal-Mart’s decision to expand its antidiscrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian employees was first disclosed by a Seattle gay rights group. The group had invested in Wal-Mart and then lobbied the company for two years to change its policy. Under the new policy, gay employees are protected under rules that prohibit workplace discrimination.

Wal-Mart officials stated that the most important factor in their decision was a letter to senior management officials about six weeks prior from several gay employees, saying that they felt excluded.

In the past, Wal-Mart has been careful not to alienate its conservative customers by refusing to sell racy men’s magazines and to partially obscure the covers of four women’s magazines in checkout lines. It has also refused to sell CDs with labels warning of explicit lyrics.

With Wal-Mart’s new policy, 9 of the 10 largest Fortune 500 companies now have rules barring discrimination against gay employees. The exception is Exxon Mobil Corporation, who in 1999 revoked its policies of providing medical benefits to domestic partners of gay employees and including sexual orientation as a category of prohibited discrimination.

Wal-Mart has no plans to extend medical benefits to unmarried couples. Among the Fortune 500 companies, 197 provide medical benefits to domestic partners, and 318 have antidiscrimination policies that include gay employees.


The Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination in the workplace. Why do companies also need to have their own antidiscrimination policies?


Define domestic partnership for the purpose of health coverage.


Is there a negative side for a company to providing or receiving health benefits for a domestic partner? Explain.

Source "New Wal-Mart Policy Protects Gay Workers," The New York Times, July 2, 2003..
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