WASHINGTON (AP) — Department store chain 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 4-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's 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 feel comfortable disclosing 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, 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.
In a statement, Dillard's denied that its policies violated the ADA.
"In order to avoid further protracted litigation with the EEOC over policies that are no longer in effect, Dillard's determined that the most efficient resolution was to settle with the EEOC," the company said.
Anna Park, an EEOC attorney, said some employees were forced to reveal conditions like cancer, mental illness or gynecological information just to get an excused absence.
"We found that managers weren't trained and they were really harassing people," Park said.
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