Employment Law: 5 Things Employees Should Know About Service Animals in the Workplace

Employment Law

Are you concerned about employment discrimination on the basis of a disability? If you have a diagnosed disability and if you have a service animal, you may be planning to bring your service animal to your place of employment on a regular basis. It is important for employees to understand how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts an employee’s rights and responsibilities with regard to service animals in the workplace. As you may know, Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities at any stage of employment, from the job application process to promotions and termination.

The following are five things every employee should know about service animals in the workplace.

  1. The ADA Does Not Automatically Allow All Service Animals Into Every Workplace

While the ADA does recognize service animals, it is important to understand that Title I of the ADA only requires employers to make reasonable accommodations with regard to service animals. This means that, in order to bring a service animal into a workplace, an employee must request that accommodation. Then, the employer is only required to permit the service animal into the workplace if doing so would be a reasonable accommodation. As an article in SHRM clarifies, an employee does not automatically have a right to have a service animal in the workplace under the ADA.

  1. Service Animals Are Not the Same As Emotional Support Animals

The ADA’s frequently asked questions sheet emphasizes that there is a clear difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. A service animal is a dog that has been trained individually to perform certain tasks for an individual who has a disability. The definition of a service animal exists under Title III of the ADA, which defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

Differently, an emotional support animal does not qualify as a service animal under the ADA. While some employers may allow employees to bring emotional support animals to work, they are not required to do so under the ADA. Typically emotional support animals are defined as those that provide comfort to a person and have not been individually trained to perform specific work or tasks tied to a person’s disability.

  1. Service Animals Must Perform Certain Tasks

Under Title III of the ADA, the work or tasks that the service animal performs “must be directly related to the individual’s disability.”

  1. Employers Cannot Require You to Have a Professionally Trained Service Animal

While some service animals may be professionally trained, professional training is not a requirement in order for a dog to be classified as a service animal.

  1. Service Animals Can Be Appropriate for a Psychological Disability

As long as a service animal performs tasks “directly related to the individual’s disability,” service animals certainly can be appropriate and reasonable accommodations for an individual’s psychological disability. For example, the ADA frequently asked questions sheet describes a situation in which a service animal may be “trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact.”

Contact a Georgia Employment Discrimination Lawyer

Do you have questions about employee rights under the ADA with regard to service animals? An experienced Georgia employment discrimination lawyer can help. Contact The Vaughn Law Firm today for more information.