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Employment and Service Animals

If a person has a disability, he or she might be eligible to bring a service animal into the workplace for assistance and support. Service animals are specially trained dogs that help people with emotional and physical disabilities.

Your right to bring a service animal with you to your workplace is covered under the Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The animal can be considered a reasonable accommodation which the law may entitle you to to help you perform your job duties. Legally, if a disabled employee requests the use of a service animal the employer must grant his or her request subject to the employer’s legitimate reason to disallow a service animal under the law.

New York’s Human Rights Law also addresses service animals, but it defines them a bit differently than the ADA. According to New York law, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants or employees because they use a properly trained service dog, hearing dog, or guide dog.

The state law defines three types of service animals, all of which are dogs as trained by a professional trainer or recognized training center and:

• Used to assist a person who is blind
• Used to assist a person who has a hearing impairment
• Used to perform specific tasks or work for a person with a disability

As with all reasonable accommodations, employers can ask for specific information regarding a disability and the employee’s need to be accompanied by a service animal. As long as an employee is able to show the service animal is related to his or her disability, the animal will improve his or her ability to perform the job, the animal is properly trained and will not be disruptive, and the presence of the animal does not prevent any undue hardship, the employer musts grant the employee’s request.

If you bring a service animal to work with you, you are responsible for its care. However, an employer can be asked to make accommodations to allow for this. For instance, you’ll need to take the dog outside to use the bathroom, but your employer must grant you time to do this.

What If a Co-Worker is Allergic?

It’s common for people to have allergies to animals, which is why the ADA has limited the use of service animals primarily to dogs (with a few exceptions). However, if you work with someone with a mild allergies to dogs, your right to have your service animal still exists. Your employer can work with you and your allergic co-worker to create space so his or her allergies are not triggered. Mild allergies are rarely enough to prohibit the accommodation.

What is Required of a Service Animal?

There are a few things you need to know before bringing a service animal to work. If you fail to meet these obligations, you can be asked to remove your service animal from the workplace. In order to avoid problems, make sure your dog:

• Only goes outdoors in a designated area to use the bathroom
• Does not jump on or bite other people in the workplace
• Stays close to you and remains under your control throughout the workday
• Does not frequently disturb co-workers (barking is allowed, but only controlled, functional barking)

Service dogs are trained to adhere to certain standards and more often than not meet their obligations. However, there are times when dogs not properly trained as service animals accompany employees into the workplace. These days, some employers have loosened restrictions in and many grant benefits – including bringing your pet to work – to employees to make the workspace more pleasant. In these cases, your rights concerning bringing an animal into the workplace are not necessarily protected by the ADA. In order to receive the ADA protections, you must be able to show you have a disability, your service animal assists you with that disability, and the animal providing you service is properly trained.

For more information on service animals in the workplace, visit ADA National Network.

If you’ve been denied the right to have your service animal accompany you to work or you have questions about service animals in the workplace, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.

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