Understanding Service Animals in the Workplace
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, and more. The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for and related to an individual with a disability. Such tasks can include:
- providing stability and balance for a person who has difficulty walking
- pulling a person’s wheelchair
- preventing a child with a mental disability from wandering off
- opening and closing cabinets, doors, drawers, etc.
While these benefits can help disabled people perform daily duties, these people depend on their service animals for survival in many cases. Thus, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in the following areas:
- job application procedures
- job training
- other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment
The ADA requires businesses that serve the public to make "reasonable modifications" in their policies, practices, or procedures to accommodate disabled workers and customers, but they’re not required to allow service animals if that would cause undue hardship. It’s worth noting that the Department of Labor (DOL) doesn’t enforce the ADA; it only provides publications and other technical assistance on the basic requirements of the law.
The ADA requires reasonable accommodations to ensure equal opportunity in the application process, enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job and make it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
The DOL outlines examples of “reasonable accommodations” that include, but are not limited to:
- Physical changes
- Installing a ramp or modifying a restroom
- Modifying the layout of a workspace
- Accessible and assistive technologies
- Ensuring computer software is accessible
- Providing screen reader software
- Using videophones to facilitate communications with colleagues who are deaf
- Accessible communications
- Providing sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings and events
- Making materials available in Braille or large print
- Policy enhancements
- Modifying a policy to allow a service animal in a business setting
- Adjusting work schedules so employees with chronic medical conditions can go to medical appointments and complete their work at alternate times or locations
Contact Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP Today
Although employers aren’t required to allow service animals in the workplace, they must make reasonable accommodations for qualified disabled employees or else they may risk violating the ADA. Our attorneys will advocate for your rights and fight to ensure you’re treated fairly under the law, as disability discrimination is strictly prohibited.
Thus, if you’re experiencing disability discrimination or need legal counsel about getting permission to bring your service animal to work, reach out to our disability discrimination lawyers at (713) 352-3433.