Wal-Mart unveils code to protect gay workers

Wal-Mart, the discount chain that is a symbol of conservative middle American values, said yesterday it was expanding its anti-discrimination rules to include gay and lesbian employees.

The company, ranked as the largest in the world in terms of revenue, had been under pressure from activist investment groups to change its rules to cover homosexuals among its 1.5 million employees.

A spokesman for the company said the change was being made "because it was the right thing to do. We feel that they need to be treated with respect and feel valued. We've had race, gender, age and disability. We're now including sexual orientation."

Wal-Mart, which owns Asda in Britain, said it wrote to store managersexplaining the policy. It will offer training sessions for employees to ensure they put the policy into practice. How strictly the company will enforce the code remains to be seen. Wal-Mart is facing a sexual discrimination lawsuit in California that alleges the company failed to uphold policies banning discrimination against female employees.

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