Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the U.S., will offer health insurance benefits to all domestic partners of full-time associates beginning next year, the company announced yesterday. Partners may be of the same or opposite sex, married or unmarried, as long as they've been “living together in an ongoing exclusive” relationship for at least 12 months with an intention of staying together indefinitely, Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove told USA Today. No proof is required to enroll a spouse, he added, and noted the Supreme Court's ruling requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage in states where it is legal helped prompt this move.

The company informed its employees in the 50 states and Puerto Rico of this shift in policy via a postcard mailed on Monday. The retailer created this new nationwide policy in part to avoid state-by-state differences. Both partners must not be related, must meet the age range for marriage in their state of domicile, and must not be in a relationship purely for the sake of gaining coverage, Brooke Buchanan, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, told ABC News.

How many employees are full-time associates who will benefit from this policy? The annual report says the company employs 2.2 million associates worldwide with 1.3 million employed in the U.S. “Similar to other retailers, the Company has a large number of part-time, hourly or non-exempt associates and a large number of associates turn over each year,” the annual report states.


Reuters reports that the number of people on the payrolls of temp-staffing businesses in June of this year grew to 2.5 million from a year earlier, based on data from the Labor Department, with the temp-staffing industry swelling by 25,200 jobs. After speaking with 20 small businesses and other entities earlier this month, NBC News reported that almost all said they’d be cutting back hours for some employees because they can’t afford to offer health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Clearly, such small numbers cannot be considered a trend; that said, Wal-Mart may be following suit.

In June 2013, Reuters surveyed 52 Wal-Mart stores, including one in every U.S. state, regarding their staffing practices; over the previous month, “27 were hiring only temps, 20 were hiring a combination of regular full, part-time and temp jobs, and five were not hiring at all.” The survey was based on interviews with managers, sales staff, and human resource department employees at the stores. According to the Reuters survey, temporary workers are often being hired on 180-day contracts; these workers typically have a completion date after which they have to reapply for work.

Wal-Mart staff stated that along with reapplying for their temporary position, the temps could eventually be hired for a regular full- or part-time job. "Full-time people are getting slimmer and slimmer," a supervisor at a store in North Carolina, who asked not to be named as she is not authorized to talk to the media, told Reuters.


Wal-Mart is based in Bentonville, Ark. The largest segment of its business, Wal-Mart U.S., accounted for approximately 59 percent of fiscal year 2013 (January 31) net sales, while Wal-Mart International, which began in 1992 and now consists of retail operations in 26 countries, generated about 29 percent of fiscal 2013 net sales.

Wal-Mart U.S. operates a total of 4,005 stores, as reported in the 2013 annual report: 3,158 are ‘Supercenters’ with an average size of approximately 181,000 square feet; 561 are ‘Discount stores’ with an average size of approximately 105,000 square feet; and 286 are ‘Neighborhood Markets and other small formats with an average size of approximately 39,000 square feet.

The company opened 285 new Supercenters between fiscal year 2009 and 2013 and converted 420 Discount stores to Supercenter format in that same time span.

The company catalogs its merchandise as grocery items (including meat, produce, deli, bakery, and beverages), entertainment (including electronics, toys, cameras, and phones), health and wellness (including OTC drugs), hardlines (including stationery, hardware, and automotive goods), apparel, and home goods (including small appliances and bedding). In the U.S., the company also offers financial services, which total less than one percent of annual sales and include money orders, prepaid cards, wire transfers, check cashing, and bill payment.