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Service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2020 | Employment Law |

You have a service dog to help you overcome limitations related to your disability. But you believe that your employer is trying to ease you out the door because you need the service animal to complete some or all of your job duties. What are your rights?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses, local and state government agencies and non-profit organizations providing services or goods to the public must make “reasonable modifications” to accommodate workers with disabilities. This also can include the use of a service dog in the workplace even in places that enforce “no pets” policies.

It should be noted that emotional support animals that provide comfort to their owners are not considered to be “service animals” under the ADA. Service animals are usually dogs that have undergone individual training to perform tasks or work for their disabled owners. The dogs’ tasks also have to be directly related to their owner’s disability.

This means different things to different people. One person might have a dog trained to detect dangerous changes in the owner’s blood glucose levels. Another might sense the onset of seizure activity and guide their owner to assume a safe position. Still another may be trained to calm a war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The dogs can be trained by professionals or by the owners themselves. There is no distinction between the service dog’s training program that would disqualify them as a service dog.

Your employer is also not allowed to ask to see the dog demonstrate its training, demand documentation or ask you about your disability. Allowed questions are only:

  • Is the service dog required because of your disability?
  • What task or job is the dog trained to do?

If you know or suspect that you were terminated because you used a service dog, you may be able to pursue legal action as a result.