Today, notice will be provided to class members in a $7.5 million settlement that has been reached with Walmart and Sam’s Club (together “Walmart”) in a class action lawsuit that challenged the lack of health insurance benefits for the same-sex spouses of associates between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013 (the “Settlement Class Period”). To receive payments under the Settlement, Settlement Class Members must file claims with the Settlement Administrator no later than March 20, 2017.
On December 22, 2016, the District Court presiding over the class action lawsuit granted preliminary approval of the Settlement, and directed the parties to send notice to Settlement Class Members so that they can learn about the Settlement and have the opportunity to submit claims to receive payments. The court has appointed Outten & Golden LLP, along with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Arnold & Porter LLP, as class counsel.
Walmart voluntarily began making the same Health Insurance benefits that it provides to opposite-sex spouses of its associates available to same-sex spouses of its associates as of January 1, 2014. Walmart denies it did anything wrong. The Court did not decide in favor of Plaintiff or Walmart. Instead, both sides agreed to a settlement.
“Settlement Class Members” include those individuals who, during the January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013 Settlement Class Period, (1) worked at Walmart or Sam’s Club in the United States or Puerto Rico; (2) were legally married to a same-sex spouse; and (3) would have been eligible for spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart or Sam’s Club but for the limitation on providing spousal Health Insurance Benefits to same-sex spouses.
Under the Settlement, Walmart has agreed to pay $7.5 million into a Settlement Fund. Up to $3.5 million of the Settlement Fund will be used to make payments to Settlement Class Members for certain documented out-of-pocket healthcare and/or health insurance costs incurred by their same-sex spouses during the Settlement Class Period. The remaining Settlement Fund, after deducting court-approved attorneys’ fees and expenses, a service award to the Named Plaintiff, and claims administration costs, will be used to make payments to Settlement Class Members who submit claims calculated based on the number of months they would have been eligible for spousal health insurance benefits during the Settlement Class Period. These “short form claimants” can receive a pro-rata share of the remaining funds based on the number of months they are eligible, up to $5,000 per year or up to $15,000 for the three year period. In addition, Walmart has committed to treating same-sex and opposite-sex spouses equally in providing health insurance benefits so long as to do so is consistent with applicable law.
To get a payment, Settlement Class Members must fill out and send in a Claim Form by March 20, 2017. Claim Forms and complete information about the Settlement are available at www.WalmartSameSexSpouseBenefitsSettlement.com.
If Settlement Class Members do nothing, their rights will be affected but they will not get a Settlement payment. Any Settlement Class Member who does not want to be legally bound by the Settlement must exclude themselves from it by March 20, 2017. Settlement Class Members who do not exclude themselves will not be able to sue or continue to sue Walmart for any legal claim resolved by this Settlement or released by the Settlement Agreement. Settlement Class Members who do not exclude themselves may object and notify the Court that they or their lawyer intends to appear at the Court’s Fairness Hearing. Objections are due March 20, 2017. More information is available at www.WalmartSameSexSpouseBenefitsSettlement.com.
Judge William Young will hold a final approval hearing in this case (Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 15-cv-12945-WGY) at 2:00 p.m. on May 11, 2017 at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse, 1 Courthouse Way, Boston, MA 02210. At this hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve: the Settlement; Class Counsel’s request for attorneys’ fees (up to 25% of the Settlement Fund) and costs; and $25,000 as a service award to the Class Representative. Settlement Class Members or their lawyers may appear at the hearing at their own expense.
For more information visit www.WalmartSameSexSpouseBenefitsSettlement.com or call 1-877-241-7543.
SOURCE Outten & Golden LLP