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Dillard’s Settles Sick-Leave Suit

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WASHINGTON — Dillard’s Inc. is paying $2 million to settle charges that it illegally required workers who took sick leave to reveal confidential medical information.

The settlement, announced Tuesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, resolves a four-year-old class-action lawsuit that charged Dillard’s with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC said thousands of current and former Dillard employees who sought sick leave were forced to submit a doctor’s note explaining not just that they were being treated, but the exact nature of their medical condition. The commission says workers who didn’t disclosed details of their treatment were fired, even when doctors advised them not to reveal private medical information.

Dillard’s, which has about 300 stores across 29 states including six in New Mexico, had argued that the policy was needed to confirm medical absences were legitimate. But the EEOC says employers are not allowed to ask for particulars of treatment unless they are job-related and necessary for the conduct of business.

EEOC attorney Anna Park said, “We commend Dillard’s for agreeing to measures that will prevent and effectively address potential disability discrimination.”

The settlement also resolves allegations that Dillard’s fired some workers for taking more sick leave than allowed. The company did not confer with employees to see whether more leave was allowed under federal law to accommodate a worker’s disability, the EEOC said.

Under a three-year consent decree, Dillard’s will pay $2 million to identified victims and establish a class fund for victims as yet identified.

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