Employers have an “affirmative duty” to make reasonable accommodations for the known disability of any employee or applicant, unless the employer can demonstrate, after engaging in the interactive process, that doing so would pose an undue hardship. Employers must consider all possible accommodations, except ones that create an undue hardship. They must consider the preference of the applicant or employee to be accommodated, but have the right to select and implement an effective, alternate accommodation.
Employers are required to allow “assistive animals” in the workplace as a reasonable accommodation. Assistive animals include not only service dogs for the visually and hearing impaired, but also support dogs or other animals that provide “emotional or other support to a person with a disability, including, but not limited to, traumatic brain injuries or mental disabilities, such as major depression.”
Employers may set minimum standards for assistive animals, such as requiring the animal:
• To be free from offensive odors and displays habits appropriate to the work environment, for example, the elimination of urine and feces;
• To not engage in behavior that endangers the health or safety of the individual with a disability or others in the workplace; and
• To be trained to provide assistance for the employee’s disability.
Reasonableness of a proposed accommodation is a fact-specific and individualized inquiry.
Whether the employer brings their own dogs to work is relevant to show that an employee bringing a service dog to work is not an undue hardship.
Disclaimer: This reply is not intended to be and does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. I always recommend consulting with an attorney, especially since many attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations.
In California, the FEHA requires employers with more than 5 employees to allow employees with a disability to bring service dogs into work as a reasonable accommodation. Employers are allowed to set minimum standards for the dog though. E.g., the dog can't come in barking everywhere, smell awful, and cause mayhem in the office. Obviously, there are also types of jobs where it would be unreasonable to bring a service dog, e.g., jobs in a sterile lab.
Also, technically employers are only required to provide a reasonable accommodation, not necessarily the one requested, which implies the employer can choose to provide some alternative reasonable accommodation. But pragmatically, there probably is no alternative reasonable accommodation for an employee that uses a service dog for e.g., blindness, severe anxiety, severe depression, PTSD, etc.
You should not rely on this response as legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship nor any professional responsibility for the outcome of your case. Please hire a lawyer as soon as possible to advise you on your circumstances.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act and its interpretative regulations provide the conditions under which an employer must allow a service dog in the workplace. You should consult with an attorney regarding this issue.
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline