Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the country, plans to start offering health coverage next year to domestic partners of full-time employees – including those in same-sex relationships.
The extension, outlined in a postcard sent to workers this week, follows a series of recent court rulings in favor of gay marriage around the country.
Though spokesman Randy Hargrove said it's unclear many people may sign up for the program, he said that more than half of the company's 1.3 million U.S. associates are covered by the retailer's health insurance plan.
That equates to 1.1 million associates and family members, he said.
To qualify for Wal-Mart's coverage, associates must "live together in an ongoing, exclusive, committed relationship similar to marriage" with a same- or opposite-sex spouse or unmarried partner and "have been together at least 12 months and intend to continue sharing a household indefinitely," Hargrove said.
"Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition so we can ensure consistency for all our associates across the country," Hargrove said.
The Bentonville, Ark., retail giant also noted that 2014 comes with a new vision plan, including eye exams, glasses and contacts. Wal-Mart also said employees would see the lowest medical premium increases in years – somewhere between 3% and 10% from last year, Hargrove said.