Walmart, America’s largest private employer, has extended staff benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian workers.
The multinational retail corporation runs a chain of large discount and warehouse stores in the US and around the world. It has 1.3 million employees in the US.
The extended coverage includes health, insurance, family leave and partner discount benefits.
The new rules will apply to heterosexual and same-sex couples as long as they have been living together in an ongoing exclusive relationship for at least 12 months.
According to Forbes the company’s new employee benefits policy was communicated in a postcard sent to staff on Monday.
A leaked internal memo from Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Benefits Sally Welborn explained that the changes were “a business decision, not a moral or political decision”.
Welborn said that “we want to be sure we are providing access to as many individuals and their families as possible”.
She noted that “given the diverse world we live in today, a comprehensive benefit package that includes domestic partner benefits appeals to the contemporary workforce”.
The policy will take effect for Walmart employees in all of America’s states, regardless of the legal status of same-sex relationships in each state.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBT rights group, told USA Today that Walmart “has sent a cultural signal that equality for LGBT people is the simplest of mainstream values…”
In 2011, Walmart was praised for adding protections for its transgender workers in its employment non-discrimination policy.