Retail giant sued for disability discrimination

Dillard’s, the nationwide department store chain, is facing a class action lawsuit for unlawfully requiring employees to disclose confidential medical information in order to qualify for excused sick leave or face disciplinary action including termination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed charges under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against Dillard’s claiming their corporate policy is an unlawful disability-related inquiry under the ADA and not a justified business necessity.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC cites one instance where a sales associate was unable to attend work for a few days because of her medical illness. After submitting a doctor’s note justifying sick leave, Dillard’s asked her to reveal the specific nature of her illness for the absence to be deemed excused under company policy.

The sales associate refused to reveal the nature of her medical illness and informed Dillard’s that their requirements unlawfully invaded her right to privacy. Dillard’s considered the absences unexcused and fired the sales associate for refusing to disclose the requested medical information.

From an EEOC press release:

“This case has national implications and illustrates one of the reasons why the ADA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to disability-related inquiries not justified by business necessity,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Park of the agency’s Los Angeles District. “The ADA’s prohibition of disability-related inquiries was enacted to protect employees from being subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes on the basis of a perceived or actual medical illness.”

San Diego Local Acting Director Raul Green said, “Employers need to be aware that the EEOC will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that employees are free to exercise their rights. Employees should not have to worry that this very sensitive, private and potentially harmful information will be used by the employer against them to unfairly exclude them from jobs that they could otherwise perform.”


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