Golden Retriever with American flag in the backgroundWe discussed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules related to service animals in the workplace and the process for requesting to use your service animal at work. Now we're looking at other issues that may come up. If you have questions about having a service dog at work, the Job Accommodation Network shares useful information on how Ticket to Work service providers can help.

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Service Animals in the Workplace - Part 2

Apr 16, 2020

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

Golden Retriever with American flag in the backgroundIn Part 1, we discussed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules related to service animals in the workplace and the process for requesting to use your service animal at work. In Part 2, we're going to look at other issues that may come up.

Can my employer offer a different accommodation instead of letting me use my service animal at work?

The ADA allows employers to choose among effective accommodations. Effective simply means that the accommodation meets your disability-related needs so you can work. So, an employer could offer you a different accommodation as long as it's effective. For example, if you use a service animal to retrieve small items for you at work, your employer might offer a reacher or even offer to have a co-worker retrieve items for you instead.

However, in many cases, there won't be another fully effective option because service animals often provide personal or medical support that other types of accommodations cannot provide, such as a sense of security, independence, and confidence or assistance during your commute to work. So if your employer offers you another accommodation instead of using your service animal and you feel that it would not be effective, you may want to explain why and possibly provide some examples of the kinds of personal and medical support your service animal provides that your employer cannot provide.

Can I ask for breaks to take my service animal outside to relieve itself?

Yes, if the regular break schedule does not allow you to take your service animal outside to relieve itself, you should talk with your employer about a modified break schedule. Keep in mind that employers don't have to give you more paid breaks as part of your accommodation, but might have to rearrange your current breaks or give you extra, unpaid breaks.

How do I educate my co-workers about my service animal?

Under the ADA, employers must keep your medical and accommodation information confidential, so you might want to bring up the idea of educating your co-workers about your service animal and even offer to educate them yourself. If you're not comfortable talking with your co-workers yourself, you might offer to find someone to come in and do a training. For example, the organization or individual who trained your service animal, your state Vocational Rehabilitation agency, or a local independent living center might have someone who could do service animal etiquette training.

Also see: A Guide for Coworker Interaction with Service Animals in the Workplace.

What if one of my co-workers is allergic to my service animal?

If your co-worker has a disability under the ADA, your employer should try to accommodate both of you. There may be a way for you to use your service animal at work without triggering an allergic reaction in your co-worker. We have a publication that you can share with your employer if you encounter this issue: Service Animals and Allergies in the Workplace.

There are other issues you may encounter related to your service or emotional support animal at work so if you have additional questions, we have a lot more information on our service animal page if you want to check it out. And feel free to contact us at JAN if you have any questions about workplace accommodations and the ADA.

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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