Dillard’s pays $70K to worker who claimed retaliation for reporting race, pregnancy bias

Dive Brief:

  • Retailer Dillard’s agreed to pay $70,000 to settle claims that it fired an employee after she complained of race and pregnancy discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in a press release Friday.
  • In 2020, the employee informed a new store manager about an existing pregnancy-related accommodation, but the manager rescinded the accommodation and punitively transferred the employee, EEOC alleged. The agency also claimed that Dillard’s ignored her complaint that the transfer was discriminatory. It then furloughed the employee amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but did not recall her, and eventually fired her in August 2020.
  • Dillard’s agreed to enter a two-and-a-half-year consent decree, and the settlement includes $5,000 in wages and $65,000 in non-wage income, according to court documents. The company also agreed to hold anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination training, alongside other relief. Dillard’s denied EEOC’s allegations.

Dive Insight:

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits retaliation against employees for participation in a complaint process, according to EEOC. The commission has said that transfer of an employee to a less desirable position may be a form of retaliation depending on the facts of a given case.

“Federal law protects and preserves an employee’s right to speak out when they see or experience discrimination or retaliation,” Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in the press release. “The EEOC is pleased that the sales associate has been compensated and that Dillard’s has agreed to non-monetary relief to prevent future retaliation as well as monetary relief for the harmed employee.”

Pregnancy discrimination has become one of the more active areas of employment law within the past two years thanks in large part to Congress’ passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The law established a right to reasonable accommodation for certain employees who have known limitations affecting their job performance due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

EEOC had been set to publish a final rule at the end of 2023 detailing how it would enforce the PWFA’s statute, but the agency missed its initial deadline.