The Sunshine State's largest employer, Publix Super Markets, will expand its spousal benefits to include married same-sex couples beginning on January 1, 2015-- just days before the lifting of a federal stay is expected to bring marriage equality to Florida.
According to Equality Florida, one of the state's leading LGBT rights' advocacy groups:
"Publix is expanding spouse coverage for its health, dental and vision benefits plans to associates who are married in any state where same-sex marriages are legal, regardless of the associates' state of residence. Publix's benefits plans offer coverage to legal spouses, and until recently, the states in which Publix operates did not recognize same-sex marriages as legal unions."
Many major companies in Florida have shown their support for recognizing same-sex couples this year and as the nation's sixth-largest privately held corporation, this pro-equality move by Publix to expand benefits to married same-sex couples is expected to assist many of its LGBT workers.
However, the company has not always been so progressive.
Just this year, the Human Rights Campaign gave Publix, which employs more than 168,500 people in about 1100 locations across the southeast, a "zero" rating on its 2014 Corporate Equality Index because company did not offer anti-discriminatory protections for LGBT employees.
In one article published last year by the New Times, addressing the supermarket's lack of domestic benefits and lack of nondiscriminatory policies for LGBT employees, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said that her organization had received several complaints from LGBT employees who described the company as "insular and slow to move" on LGBT issues.
Indeed, in the fall of 2012, the Broward County Human Rights Board even ordered the supermarket chain pay $100,000 to a bakery employee who alleged that he had been fired from one Publix store for being gay.
However, Smith did say last year that some people in Publix's upper management were beginning to move in the right direction in terms of protecting its LGBT employees.
Equality Florida believes the recent move by Publix to expand benefits to same-sex couples is testament to that steady progress, stating yesterday morning that it applauds the company for recognizing the importance of marriage equality.
"This is huge news," said Smith. "Publix is an iconic brand as associated with Florida as beaches and sunshine. This step recognizes that marriage is coming and acknowledges the impossibility of maintaining separate and unequal laws in some parts of our state and nation."
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