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  • Writer's pictureJoshua C. Black

Can My Service Animal Accompany Me to Work?

By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.


Can My Service Animal Accompany Me to Work?


As an employment lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona, I often encounter individuals with disabilities who require the assistance of a service animal. One common question that arises is whether an employer can be required to allow a service animal in the workplace as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this post, we will explore this topic, providing you with the necessary information and guidance to understand your rights and responsibilities.


Understanding the ADA and Reasonable Accommodations


The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various aspects of life, including employment. It requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to ensure equal opportunity and access to employment opportunities.


A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job. This may include modifications to policies, practices, or procedures. Accommodations must be reasonable and should not cause undue hardship to the employer.


Service Animals as Reasonable Accommodations


Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of an individual with a disability. While service animals are most commonly associated with individuals who are blind or visually impaired, they can also assist individuals with other disabilities, such as mobility impairments or certain psychiatric conditions.


In general, an employer may be required to allow a service animal in the workplace as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  1. The Individual's Disability: The individual requesting the accommodation must have a recognized disability under the ADA. The disability must substantially limit one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, or performing manual tasks.

  2. The Essential Functions of the Job: The individual must be qualified for the job and able to perform its essential functions with or without accommodation. If the presence of a service animal is necessary for the individual to perform these functions, the employer may be required to allow the animal in the workplace.

  3. Disruption or Undue Hardship: Employers are not required to allow a service animal if its presence would cause undue hardship or significant disruption to the workplace. Factors such as the size and nature of the workplace, the type of work being performed, and the presence of other employees with allergies or fear of animals may be considered in determining undue hardship.

Working with Your Employer


If you believe you require a service animal as a reasonable accommodation, it is important to engage in an interactive process with your employer. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Notify Your Employer: Inform your employer in writing about your disability and the need for a service animal as a reasonable accommodation. Provide relevant documentation, such as a letter from your healthcare provider, supporting your request.

  2. Engage in Dialogue: Discuss the specific functions and tasks that the service animal would assist you with and address any concerns your employer may have regarding the accommodation. Explore potential alternatives or modifications that could address those concerns while still allowing you to benefit from the presence of the service animal.

  3. Document the Process: Keep a record of all communication and interactions related to your request. This documentation can serve as evidence in case of any future disputes or claims.

Conclusion


In summary, employers may be required to allow a service animal in the workplace as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, provided certain criteria are met. If you believe you need a service animal to perform the essential functions of your job, engage in an open and constructive dialogue with your employer. By working together, you can find a solution that accommodates your needs while considering the legitimate concerns.

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