You probably see service dogs out and about while running errands. Service dogs, unlike pets, are allowed to be in public places under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What if you are disabled and need a service dog while at work?
Surprisingly, there are no employment laws that explicitly allow service animals in the workplace. Title I of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. This means that the employer should have a dialogue with the employee to learn more about the disability and determine his or her requirements in order to perform the required job duties. However, an employee does not have an automatic right to have a service dog in the workplace. Therefore, it is easy for an employee who relies on a service dog to face disability discrimination in the workplace.
Why Would Someone Need a Service Dog in the Workplace?
There are several reasons why someone with a disability would need to have a service animal with them in the workplace. To be clear, a service animal can be either a dog or a miniature horse, but employers are more likely to allow dogs instead of horses.
Service dogs are trained to assist people with a variety of tasks. If someone is blind or suffers from severe vision problems, he or she may need a service dog to help navigate the workplace. A person who is deaf or hard of hearing may receive assistance from a specially trained dog. If a person suffers from a seizure disorder, a dog may be able to predict seizures.
Dogs can be useful for managing emotional disorders, as well. Someone with PTSD, for example, may benefit from the calming effects of a dog. However, emotional support animals are not covered under the ADA, as they are not trained to perform specific tasks.
Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
If you need a reasonable accommodation such as a service dog to do your job, it is best to put the request in writing. You should describe your disability, how it affects your job, and how a service dog will assist you in performing your job. You should also explain how the dog has been trained. Your employer can request documentation of any of these details to make a decision.
Your employer does not have to approve your reasonable accommodation if it would create an undue hardship. Simply not allowing dogs is not an undue hardship. The employer must be able to prove that allowing the service dog would be a huge burden or cost for the company. Even having an employee with dog allergies is not an undue hardship. For example, providing air filters, moving around employees and allowing for telecommuting are some options.
Contact a New York Disability Discrimination Attorney
It is important to communicate with your employer about your requirements and what you need to do to perform your job duties. If your employer will not allow you to have a service dog in the workplace, you may be able to sue your employer for not allowing a reasonable accommodation.
Get help from the employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. We can assess your situation and help you understand your rights. Schedule a free consultation by filling out the online form or calling (347) 727-0661.