Following a ruling in favor of the retail giant by the Supreme Court, workers may now find coverage more challenging.
Last week, at the same time that Walmart was facing a new round of criticism regarding its extremely low wages for many workers – and an effort to overcome that reputation with promotions for about 25,000 American employees along with raises in pay – the retail giant was simultaneously working to convince the Supreme Court to make it easier for the company to avoid paying disability insurance benefits.
This ruling has set precedent to make it easier for other companies to follow Walmart’s lead.
Walmart employs approximately 1.3 million people in the United States. As it has scrambled to maintain a more positive reputation for worker treatment, it was winning a battle to make sure that it won’t have to pay out as much in terms of disability insurance benefits, making it more challenging for the company’s employees to make a successful claim.
Much of this started in a large disability insurance case against the retailer and Hartford Life & Accident.
The case involved Julie Heimeshoff and a lawsuit against Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. In it, Heimeshoff, an employee of the retailer, sued her employer and its disability insurance provider in 2010 for having refused to pay her benefits. Heimeshoff had been working for the company for almost two decades, with her most recent position as a public relations manager.
Approximately 10 years before, she had received a diagnosis of a number of chronic pain conditions and problems, including lupus, fibromyalgia, and others. By 2005, the pain had risen to the degree that it forced Heimeshoff to stop working. At that time, she applied for benefits from her disability insurance through the company. After her claim underwent a lengthy internal review, it was denied. She sued within what she had believed to be the statute of limitations of her state, under 3 years from the denial of her claim.
At the time that Heimeshoff began working for Walmart, part of the contract that she signed stated that if her disability insurance benefits were ever to be denied, she would be able to sue the company for wrongful benefits denial only if she did so within a span of three years from having filed the claim. However, the United States government, and consumer lawyers have said that the contract should not be considered valid, as established law has stated that the time period should not begin until the claim has been denied. Otherwise, the length of time taken to consider the claim would reduce the amount of time in which the employee is able to act.