BY ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP RETAIL WRITER
NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 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, which has been a target of attacks by labor groups for what they criticize are skimpy wages and benefits, 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 spouses of the same-sex or opposite gender, 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.
"Since we operate in all 50 states we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all associates in the U.S.," Hargrove told the Miami Herald. "States are developing different definitions of marriage. This will be a specific definition for our associates."
Miami Herald staff writer Steve Rothaus contributed to this report.