Dillard’s to pay $2 million in California disability discrimination claim

Work is supposed to be a safe place. Workers in California should be free to approach their jobs with the assurance that as long as they are doing good work and being honest, they will not have to worry about getting fired for unjustified reasons. California sets strict rules about how employers can act, and no worker should have to be concerned about losing his or her job because an employer chooses not to follow the law.

Unfortunately, this scenario is frustratingly common. When it happens, wronged employees have a right to hold their employees accountable. An illustrative example of this right lies in a recent $2 million settlement against Dillard's Inc., after employees in its El Centro, California store claimed that they were victimized by unlawful disability discrimination.

The employees alleged that Dillard's required them to disclose specific details of their medical conditions as a precondition to taking sick leave. Although employers are allowed to request that employees provide a doctor's verification that a sick leave request is related to a bona fide medical condition, the law protects workers from having to share the details of their condition or treatment. Employers are only allowed to ask about the details of an employee's disability when the request is job-related and required in order to conduct business.

In addition, the employees claimed that Dillard's wrongfully set limits on the amount of health-related leave an employee could take. In some cases, employers are required to grant additional leave as a "reasonable accommodation" for an employee's disability.

As part of the settlement, Dillard's will be required to hire a disability consultant who will be tasked with helping the company bring its policies into compliance with state and federal law. Dillard's employees who feel they have been wronged by the company's sick-leave policies are encouraged to contact a California employment law attorney or the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission for further action under the settlement.

About the Fair Employment and Housing Act

Workers in California enjoy robust protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The FEHA protects workers from employment-related discrimination or harassment based on a number of protected characteristics including race, disability status, religion, national origin, gender (and gender identity and expression), sexual orientation and marital status.

When employers violate the FEHA, wronged employees have a right to file a complaint and pursue financial compensation and other remedies. However, it is important to note that state law limits the amount of time that employees have to take action under the FEHA. If you think you have been the victim of employment discrimination, talk to a California employment law attorney who can evaluate your case and help you protect your rights.