As Walmart prepares to enter the South African market, a US gay rights group has slammed the company for its record when it comes to gay employees.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has joined the Walmart Free NYC campaign in the US, criticising the company for its lack of protection for LGBT staff.

Despite the company being the largest retailer and employer in the US, it is only now planning to open its first store in New York City, a move which has prompted the debate.

“We have serious concerns about the expansion of Walmart into New York City, a historic home of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community,” said NGLTF in a statement.

“With the expansion of Walmart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees.”

According to NGLTF, Walmart is “eons behind many companies” when it comes to same-sex partnership benefits, gender identity non-discrimination and diversity training.

“Walmart’s lack of sensitivity to transgender people is especially important to consider. …Walmart opposes shareholder resolutions that would require the company’s non-discrimination policy to cover gender identity, and refuses to uphold the rights of transgender people that many localities and states now recognise,” said NGLTF.

The organisation also said that Walmart’s CEO Mike Duke “is on record opposing gay and lesbian adoption” and that Walmart stores in the US sell a book “that presents homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured”.

Unions in South Africa are against the planned $2,3-billion takeover of South Africa’s Massmart retailer, which owns discount brands such as Game, Dion and Builder’s Warehouse, citing the company’s treatment of workers in other countries.

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