How to Handle Service Animals in the Workplace

How to Handle Service Animals in the Workplace

The decision to allow service animals in the workplace is not an easy one. Under Title I of the ADA, employers with at least 15 employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations, including service animals. Some state or local laws may require all employers to provide accommodations, regardless of business size.

But how do you handle having service animals in the workplace?

Deciding to Allow Service Animals in the Workplace

Reasonable accommodations may include service animals. It is common and acceptable to ask for medical documentation that the service animal is required to perform their job. You can also ask for documentation or other proof that the service animal has been trained sufficiently that they are not going to be a disruption in the workplace.

All requests for reasonable accommodations, including service animals, must be taken seriously. However, an untrained animal that causes disruptions in the workplace is not reasonable. At the same time, you cannot just dismiss such a request out of turn.

Reasonable Accommodations for Service Animals

Additional accommodations must be made for service animals. You will need to provide a place for the animal to relieve itself. You must also allow for additional breaks and time for the employee to care for the service animal.

Allergies and phobias of coworkers are another consideration. If a coworker has an allergy to the animal, you may need to make reasonable accommodations for the coworker as well. This may include alternatives to in-person communication, providing allergy masks, or asking the disabled employee to use dander-controlling products on their animal.

It is important to note that you cannot disclose disabilities or accommodations for disabilities to coworkers. It is best to simply tell other employees that a service animal will be in the building and not to interact with it.

Need Help Deciding on Service Animals?

If you don’t have a formal HR department, you might be lost on whether or not to allow a service animal in the workplace, or how to accommodate one. Our firm can help you navigate this tricky landscape. Contact us today for assistance.