EEOC Sues Dillard's; Retailer Says Settlement Awaits Court OK

EEOC Sues Dillard's; Retailer Says Settlement Awaits Court OK
Dillard’s headquarters at 1600 Cantrell Road in Little Rock.  (Stephanie Dunn)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a racial discrimination lawsuit this week against Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock, alleging that the retailer didn’t promote Black workers to managerial or supervisory positions because of their race.

The EEOC also said that Dillard’s doesn’t recruit Black college students into its Little Rock Buyers Program, an executive development program. Forty of the 41 students who have participated in the program since it was established are white, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported the lawsuit on Thursday.

Dillard’s has denied all discrimination allegations. In a statement to Arkansas Business, Julie Guymon, Dillard’s spokeswoman, said Dillard’s settled with the EEOC.

“An agreed upon consent decree, pending court approval, notes that Dillard steadfastly denies the EEOC's allegations, but has entered an agreement with the Commission in support of its resolute commitment to the principles of equal employment opportunity for all and to avoid protracted and continued litigation,” Guymon said. “The settlement and proposed consent decree resolve all of the issues alleged in the court filing.”

The allegations date back to a 2011 investigation Arkansas Business covered in 2016, when a federal judge ordered the retailer to turn over contact information so that the EOCC could survey hundreds of past and current employees.

In the lawsuit, nine individuals are representing a class of current and former employees. They were or are employed at Dillard’s stores in Little Rock; North Little Rock; Montgomery, Alabama; St. Petersburg, Florida; Newman, Georgia; Cedar Hill, Texas; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Metairie, Louisiana.

More: See the lawsuit here.

The lawsuit alleges that Dillard’s doesn’t post job vacancies, doesn’t have a written promotion policy and takes a “tap on the shoulder” approach to filling supervisory and managerial positions.

The EEOC said that Dillard’s was asked in 2018 to work with the EEOC “in informal methods of conciliation to endeavor to eliminate the discriminatory practices and to provide appropriate relief.” The commission said that while it “engaged in numerous communications” with Dillard’s, it was unable to obtain a “conciliation agreement” from the retailer.

The EEOC is calling for a permanent injunction prohibiting retaliation against the plaintiffs and any discriminatory employment practices as well as an order requiring Dillard’s to “carry out policies, practices, and programs which provide equal employment opportunities for African Americans and which eradicate the effects of its past and present unlawful employment practices.”

In addition, the commission is asking that the court require Dillard’s to recruit qualified Black students into its Little Rock Buyers Program and recruit for that program from historically black colleges.

The EEOC is also asking that the class be paid for past and future losses, with the compensation amounts to be determined at trial.

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