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Service animals in the workplace

We've previously written on the topic of workplace discrimination, and one type of discrimination that can occur in the workplace is based on disability. An employer cannot make a hiring or firing decision for a qualified worker based solely on a disability, and covered employers are expected to make some accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act that provides accessibility to disabled workers.

In some cases, those accommodations might include allowing a disabled person to have his or her service animal in the workplace. Since May is National Guide Dog Awareness month, we thought it was a good time to discuss this particular accommodation.

It's important to note that an employer is not automatically required to allow you to bring a service animal to work simply because you have an animal that qualifies. The employer is only required to make reasonable accommodations under the ADA. That means they must consider allowing the service animal onsite if not doing so would create undue hardship for the employee. In the case of someone who is blind and uses a guide dog, this might be the case.

On the flip side, employers can't accommodate one person and not consider other employees. If someone in the workplace has a severe allergy to pets, that allergy might be considered a disability. In that case, the employer would also have to consider whether a service animal would cause other employees undue hardship.

If you believe you are being discriminated against for any disability, you might have a legal claim against the employer. These are not typically open-and-shut cases though, which is why seeking advance from a professional is a good idea.

Source: GovDocs Blog, "Can Employers Ban Service Animals From Work?," accessed April 29, 2016

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