The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
9-30-08

DILLARDíS SUED FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

EEOC Says Retail Giant Requires Employees to Reveal Confidential Medical Information

SAN DIEGO – Dillard Store Services, Inc. (Dillard’s), the nationwide chain of department stores, unlawfully discrimin­ates against employees by requiring them to disclose personal and confidential medical information or face disciplinary action including termination, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges in a class lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The EEOC states in the litigation that the Dillard’s store in El Centro, Calif., requires employees to reveal the specific nature of their medical illness in order to deem necessary sick leave as an excused absence. The EEOC contends this corporate policy, potentially affecting thousands of workers, is an unlawful disability-related inquiry under the ADA and not justified by business necessity. Dillard’s corporate headquarters is located in Little Rock, Ark.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC cites a sales associate who was unable to attend work for a few days due to her medical illness. Despite submitting a doctor’s note justifying the need for sick leave, Dillard’s required the sales associate to reveal the specific nature of her illness in order to have these absences deemed excused pursuant to company policy. The sales associate openly objected and refused to reveal the nature of her medical illness, informing Dillard’s that its specific medical inquiry unlawfully invaded her right to privacy. Nevertheless, Dillard’s deemed the sales associate’s absences as unexcused and fired her in retaliation for refusing to disclose the requested medical information.

“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.”

The EEOC filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement (U.S. EEOC v. Dillard’s, Inc., et al, Case No. 08-CV-1780). The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

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.”
According to its web site, www.dillards.com, “Dillard's, Inc. ranks among the nation's largest fashion apparel and home furnishings retailers with annual revenues exceeding $7.7 billion. The Company operates approximately 330 Dillard's locations spanning 29 states, all with one nameplate - Dillard's.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment dis­crim­ination based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on October 2, 2008.

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