Do Employers Have to Allow Emotional Support Animals?2021-01-15
Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be beneficial for people who suffer from mental illnesses or elevated stress or anxiety. Research has shown that companion animals can be quite powerful in helping people to cope with mental health problems. Having one of these animals at home can significantly improve the wellbeing of people who are struggling.
Can you take your emotional support animal to work?
In this article, we will answer this question and provide you with other important information you’ll need regarding your ESA. Keep reading to get a clearer understanding of the complex issue of emotional support animals in the workplace.
Can You Bring an Emotional Support Animal to Work?
The short answer to this question is... maybe.
If your emotional support animal helps you to stay engaged in your work and get through your day easier, it is no wonder that you would like to bring it to your job with you. As an employee, you want to do your best at work, and many employers want to make their workplace as comfortable as possible.
These employers may even allow pets that do not have any special designation at all in the office. The first course of action you should take is merely having a conversation with your employer to see if they would approve of bringing your ESA to work. In some situations, the answer may be a resounding yes because it will benefit both you as the employee and your boss as the employer.
If you face some pushback, you may want to reiterate how your ESA will help you be a more productive employee and help you accomplish more in the workplace. Employers are usually concerned with employee productivity. Therefore, if you phrase your request in this manner, they may be more likely to be on board. Still, your employer will have the final say when it comes to ESAs at work.
Can an Employer Deny an Emotional Support Animal?
Again, the short answer to this question is also maybe. Your place of employment likely qualifies as a public accommodation, meaning it is a facility used by the public, which subjects it to accessibility rules.
The largest piece of legislation at play in this debate is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, your employer is required to provide its employees with reasonable accommodations and cannot discriminate against employees with disabilities. However, a reasonable accommodation at work does not apply to support animals only to service dogs.
At the federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act only specifies rules around service animals, not ESAs. However, a few states, such as California, also have laws that have protections for ESAs and consider them a reasonable accommodation. Still, it’s important to note that for the majority of Americans ESAs do not have a protected status at work. Service dogs are the only class of animal that is protected at work.
What is the Difference Between ESAs and Service Animals?
A service animal is any animal that has been trained to perform specific tasks to assist someone who has either a mental or physical disability. While service animals are usually dogs, miniature horses are also common.
Typically, ESAs have not been trained to fulfill certain duties and do not meet this requirement. Most people also tend to have an emotional support dog instead of another kind of animal. Still, because of the lack of training required, there are usually more types of animals that can be considered ESAs.
For example, you rarely see cats as service animals because they are challenging to train; however, they are quite common as ESAs because they can be wonderfully calming companions.
What Constitutes a “Specific Task”?
If the term "specific task" seems a bit vague to you, you are not alone. There are many different disabilities in existence, which means there are a plethora of activities that could meet the "specific task" requirement to be considered a service animal.
For example, if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and your emotional support dog were trained to remind you to take your medication or to recognize and respond to the symptoms of an anxiety episode, it would qualify as a service animal.
What is Your Employer Allowed to Ask You?
Your employer is not allowed to interrogate employees about every aspect of their disabilities or the employees’ needs to have an animal with them at work; however, there are a few things on which employers can get clarification.
Your employer is entirely within their rights to ask employees what the specific task is that the animal has been trained to perform for them. If you cannot answer this question regarding your emotional support animal, your employer may be able to deny its presence in the workplace.
However, it is essential to know that your employer cannot ask you what your specific disability is. They also cannot ask you to make your animal perform a demonstration of its training. If your employer asks you questions that are illegal or fails to provide you with reasonable accommodations, you can file a claim with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If you have a disability that requires help from a trained service dog then they’re allowed to come with you wherever you go. Whether it’s at work or in your home, you deserve an environment that is conducive to your success. Emotional Support Animals are not trained for special tasks and thus it is up to the employer- more often than not- to come up with the rules about allowing pets on premises.
To get started on this exciting endeavor, contact ESA Registration. We are here to make this process as easy as possible. If you have any further questions about your specific situation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of professionals.
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