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ADA Blog #150: Dillard’s Inc.

I’ve often blogged about the importance of understanding how "#leave" must be considered in your company's #policy as a possible #reasonable #accommodation in certain situations. Certainly, requests for #leaves-of-absence or #flexibility in an employee’s work schedule can cause considerable frustration for #employers. These employee requests create uncertainty about an employee’s ability to perform the job, and create operational issues for both the employer and other employers. However, denying an employee’s request for leave or schedule change increases the potential of an #ADA claim for failure to #accommodate.

In a recent class action #lawsuit, #Dillard’s Inc. (a department store chain with about 300 stores across 29 states) is paying $2 million to settle charges about #leave-related issues. According to the #EEOC, thousands of current and former Dillard’s employees who sought #sick leave were forced to reveal #confidential information via a #doctor’s note explaining not just that they were being treated, but the exact nature of their #medical #condition.

#Employers are not allowed to ask for particulars of treatment unless they are #job-related and necessary for the conduct of #business. In this case, #Dillard's forced some employees to reveal conditions like #cancer, #mental illness or #gynecological information just to get an excused absence. Dillard’s also #fired some workers for taking more sick leave than the company allowed without exploring with these employees (known as the "#interactive process") whether more leave was necessary as a #reasonable #accommodation as required by the #ADA.

In its #investigation, the #EEOC found that #managers weren’t #trained and they were #harassing their employees seeking leave. In addition to paying $2 million to identified #victims and establishing a class fund for victims who are not yet identified, Dillard’s must:
* hire a #consultant to review and revise #company #policies,
* #train #supervisors and #staff on #federal #disability #law., and
* submit #annual #reports to the #EEOC verifying #compliance.

In recent years, the #EEOC has challenged #employer #leave #policies at a very high cost to employers, successfully challenging policies such as #no-fault #attendance #policies, #terminating employees unable to #return to #work after a 12-month #workers’ compensation leave policies, terminating employees at the end of a fixed #medical leave period rather than returning the employees back to work with #reasonable #accommodations.

#No-fault leave or #fixed-leave #policies don’t automatically #violate the #ADA, but employers need to be prepared to adapt these policies in order to provide additional leave as #reasonable #accommodation.

Don't let the cost of employee #training result in more costly #litigation for your company. Through its practical training offerings, #Springboard's clients learn how to adapt these #policies in order to provide additional leave as #reasonable #accommodation. Start the New Year by contacting #Springboard to discuss your #training needs.

Shelley

This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.