Does An Employer Have to Allow Service Dogs?
Service animals play a crucial role in the lives of many individuals with disabilities, providing them with the necessary assistance to go about their daily lives. Service animals are defined as dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses) that are individually trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, such as guiding individuals who are blind, alerting individuals who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, or alerting individuals to an impending seizure. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the primary law that governs the rights of individuals with disabilities and their service animals in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that was enacted in 1990 to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of public life. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, housing, public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, and government services. The law provides protections and accommodations to individuals with disabilities, and requires employers, businesses, and other entities to make reasonable accommodations to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of society. The ADA has been instrumental in promoting equality, independence, and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in the United States.
ADA & Service Dogs
Under the ADA, an employer must allow an employee with a disability to bring their service animal to work if the animal is necessary to perform tasks that the employee cannot perform on their own. The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, and in some cases, a miniature horse.
The ADA does not require employers to permit other types of animals, such as emotional support animals, to accompany their owners in the workplace. Emotional support animals do not meet the definition of a service animal under the ADA, as they are not trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities.
When an employee with a disability requests to bring a service animal to work, the employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine whether the service animal is necessary for the employee to perform their job duties. The employer may ask the employee what specific tasks the service animal performs, but may not ask about the nature or severity of the employee's disability.
The employer may also ask the employee to provide documentation from a healthcare provider or other qualified professional that verifies that the employee has a disability and requires a service animal. However, the employer may not require the employee to provide documentation that discloses the specific nature of the employee's disability.
If the employer determines that the service animal is necessary for the employee to perform their job duties, the employer must allow the employee to bring the service animal to work, unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. An undue hardship is defined as an action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size and resources of the employer.
Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Pets
A service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This definition also includes psychiatric service animals that are trained to provide assistance to individuals with mental health conditions. Service animals are not pets, and their presence is not solely for emotional support.
It is important to note that emotional support animals (ESA) are not considered service animals under the ADA. ESAs are animals that provide emotional support and comfort to their owners but are not trained to perform specific tasks related to a disability. However, under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs may be allowed in housing and on flights as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities.
Emotional support animals (ESA) are not considered service animals under the ADA.
Examples of Undue Hardship
Examples of circumstances that may create an undue hardship include situations where the service animal is aggressive towards other employees, where the service animal is disruptive to the work environment, or where accommodating the service animal would require significant modifications to the workplace.
If the employer determines that accommodating the service animal would create an undue hardship, the employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine whether there are any reasonable accommodations that could be made to enable the employee to perform their job duties without the service animal.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to permit service animals to accompany their owners in the workplace if the service animal is necessary for the employee to perform their job duties. Employers may ask for documentation to verify the employee's disability and the need for a service animal, but may not inquire about the nature or severity of the employee's disability. Employers may refuse to accommodate a service animal if doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer, but must engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine whether there are any reasonable accommodations that could be made to enable the employee to perform their job duties without the service animal.
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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.