Wal-Mart Stores will extend its health care benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1.
The nation’s largest private employer said Tuesday that 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.
Employees can enroll their domestic partners from Oct. 12 through Nov. 1.
Wal-Mart defines domestic partners as same-sex or opposite sex spouses, 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, says Randy Hargrove, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
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“States have different definitions,” said Hargrove in an interview with The Associated Press. “We are going to have our own definition that will apply to our associates.”
Wal-Mart also announced that it will be offering an eyewear care program to its eligible associates, starting next year. That includes eye exams.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter has 1.3 million full-time and part-time U.S. workers. More than half of the workers participate in health care plans, the company says. About 1.1 million Wal-Mart workers and family members combined participate in Wal-Mart’s health care plan.
The changes were announced to Wal-Mart workers in a postcard sent to them on Monday.