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Dillard's to pay $2 million for disability violations

Major retailer Dillard's will be required to pay more than $2 million in connection with a sick-leave policy that reportedly violated employee rights. Several workers were fired because of their refusal to abide by the store policy, which required the submission of private medical information before employees could use sick leave. They had filed wrongful termination suits in connection with the incidents, largely because of retaliation they experienced for protesting the policy.

The class-action suit was sparked by an employee who was absent for four days in 2008. That employee refused to disclose confidential medical information when asked by the retailer. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a suit against Dillard's, arguing that soliciting medical information was not appropriate in that circumstance. Disability information is only required when the disability directly affects the worker's ability to perform his or her job. In that case, the information is necessary to complete basic work functions.

Dillard's officials denied liability in connection with the case, but they said they chose to settle the case to avoid a lengthy litigation process that was likely to continue. Those reportedly discriminatory policies are no longer in effect, having been phased out since the suit was filed.

At this time, the retailer has agreed to pay $2 million to the individuals who filed the suit. A class-action fund has also been set aside for other employees who may have been affected by the policies. Not only could those people sue for lost wages in connection with the incident, but they might also receive compensation for emotional distress associated with losing their jobs.

The discriminatory policies in this case required workers to disclose confidential information to employers that could have been used in other discriminatory ways. Employees who disclosed a heart condition, for example, could have been fired simply because of their health condition; those people could have been a drain on the company's health insurance policy, and Dillard's could have deemed them a high risk.

Source: Amarillo Globe-News, "Dillard's to pay $2 million, start fund in sick-leave suit," Karen Smith Welch, Dec. 20, 2012.

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