DogThe ADA requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities, which simply means they have to consider doing things differently so individuals with disabilities can work. Does this include service animals? Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., from the Job Accommodation Network, answers questions about service animals in the workplace.

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Service Animals in the Workplace: Part 1

Mar 10, 2020

By Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

DogI work for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which is a free source of information about workplace accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it applies to the workplace. We get questions from all over the United States from both employers and individuals with disabilities.

One of the questions we've been getting for years is what the ADA says about service animals in the workplace. The answer is nothing! And that's why this issue is confusing and why we continue to get questions about it. Here are some of the questions we get from individuals with disabilities and some practical ideas for approaching employers about bringing service animals to work:

Why can't I just take my service animal to work? I thought the ADA gave me the right to take my service animal with me wherever I go.

There are parts of the ADA that give you the right to take your service animal into places that are open to the public, such as restaurants, hotels, schools, and government agencies that provide services, but not the part that deals with employment. Under the employment part of the ADA (title I), there are no specific guidelines for employers to follow when an individual with a disability wants to use a service animal in the workplace.

For additional information, see JAN's Just-In-Time Training Module: Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace.

What do I need to do so I can have my service animal at work?

The ADA requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities, which simply means they have to consider doing things differently so individuals with disabilities can work. One of the things employers have to consider is modifying a no-animals-in-the-workplace policy so an employee with a disability can use a service animal at work.

What this means is you have to start by letting your employer know that you have a service animal and that you'd like to bring it to work. You can do this any way you like, in person, by email, or in a letter to your employer.

Can my employer ask me for documentation?

When you ask for an accommodation, if your disability and need for a service animal are not obvious, your employer can ask you for documentation to prove that you have a disability and that you need to use a service animal. The documentation that proves that you have a disability usually comes from your health care provider, but your health care provider might not even know about your service animal. In that case, you may need to offer other documentation such as proof of training if your service animal was professionally trained or a demonstration if you trained the service animal yourself. What you're trying to show is that your service animal is a working animal and can behave in the workplace and not disrupt others.

Can I take my service animal to a job interview without asking?

In most cases, no. If you're going to an employer's workplace for an interview, you will probably need to ask for an accommodation to bring your service animal to the interview because the ADA's workplace rules apply. One exception might be for public job fairs, which are typically open to the public and covered by the rules for public access. For more information, see Taking a Service Animal to a Job Interview: Public Access or Reasonable Accommodation?

Do the same rules apply to emotional support animals?

The answer here is "probably." The ADA doesn't say anything about emotional support animals at work either so the same approach can probably be used, meaning you can ask to be allowed to bring your emotional support animal to work and your employer should consider it. One thing to keep in mind is that employers do not have to allow you to bring an animal to work if it disrupts the workplace so you'll need to show that your emotional support animal is well behaved. For more information, see Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace: A Practical Approach.

How can Ticket to Work help?

Some Ticket program service providers can help answer your questions about service dogs or other accommodations.

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) and want to work. Through this free and voluntary program, eligible participants can work with service providers to receive the supports and services they need to find and maintain employment as they move toward financial independence through work.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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