Service Dogs in the Workplace


Service Dog’s in the Public & Workplace

The provisions of the ADA as outlined by the Dept. of Justice in their revised final regulations outline that public facilities “must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.”  This would include hospitals, clinics, cafeterias, examination rooms, etc.  This same guidance outlines that when it is not obvious what service an animal provides, staff may ask limited inquiries only, to include “(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability; and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.”   Further under this guidance, a person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his/her service animal from the premises unless the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective control or the dog is not housebroken.  Under the ADA guidance a service dog must be already trained before it can be taken into public places, but specifically notes that some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.  Connecticut is such a state.

While the ADA addresses service dogs in public accommodations, what about an individual requiring a service dog in the workplace?  While the ADA does not address this topic specifically, the EEOC has issued guidance. (at Paragraph 25).  According to the EEOC the ADA does not require employers to “automatically” allow employees to bring their service animals to work, but that such a request, is considered a form of reasonable accommodation.  Once an employee makes such a reasonable request, the employer must engage in an interactive process to determine if allowing a service dog into the workplace, would cause any undue hardship upon the business.  Obviously, to determine if allowing a service dog in the workplace is a reasonable accommodation, would be case specific.  If you work in a garage, a small office or a large warehouse, it is less likely that any hardship would exist.  However, if you work as a cashier at your local stop & shop or in the deli, well, that may not be such a reasonable request.

In the State of Connecticut, any dog in training as a service dog and its handler are protected.  The handler does not even need to demonstrate that the dog is being used to help with disabilities in order to be afforded the protections allowed to people using service dogs, as the law protects those individuals who are “training” a service dog.  Connecticut law further prohibits public facilities from denying full and equal access to any blind, deaf, or mobility-impaired person OR any person training a guide or assistance dog, accompanied by his or her dog. (C.G.S. §46a-44 and 46a-64).

Reasonably speaking, in the State of Connecticut, making a request to bring your service dog to work is a viable option and a reasonable request for an accommodation.  However, it will certainly be case and employer specific.  If you would like to read more about this topic, you can visit the Law Library here and read all about the specific laws that touch upon this topic.

If you find that you have been the subject of discrimination and/or retaliation for requiring the assistance of a service animal within your place of work, give Employee Rights Advocacy Agency a call to discuss your situation and let us see if we can help you resolve that issue.