Wal-Mart Alters Ethics Code to Expand Definition of 'Immediate Family'

January 31, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Retail giant Wal-Mart, in what may be a first step towards a more liberal policy towards same-sex partners, has updated its employee ethics code to broaden the definition of "immediate family members" to include domestic partners in certain states.

The nation’s largest private employer has expanded the definition in sections of its ethics code that bars employees from using confidential information, according to the Wall Street Journal. This prohibition says that this information cannot be used to benefit employees or their immediate family members, or to approach the company’s suppliers about jobs for such family members.

Wal-Mart adopted the new ethics code to be consistent with recently liberalized laws in states such as Massachusetts, Vermont and California, according to the Journal.

The move was applauded by gay rights groups. “Wal-Mart is taking the high road in recognizing that gay and lesbian families are part of America, society and the work force. That’s encouraging,” said Daryl Herrschaft, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s WorkPlace project, according to the Journal.

As of now, Wal-Mart does not extend health benefits to a workers’ same-sex partner unless they are required to by law.