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Employer HR Tips – April 2019

Your Service Animals in the Workplace

Animals now have a place in the workplace. Check out this month’s employer HR tips for more information on how to handle employees who need service animals!

Service animals are NOT pets

Household pets can be restricted by employers in the workplace. Service animals cannot. For an animal to qualify as a service animal, they must fall into both of the following categories. First, the handler of the animal must have a disability helped by the aid of a trained animal. Second, the animal must be able to provide for its handler’s specific disability through specific training.

Not all animals can be service animals

Service animals can only be dogs or miniature horses according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These animals help with tasks difficult or impossible for their owner. For example, they can alert a deaf handler to sound, ensure the blind cross the street safely, or turn on lights for owners with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Are Emotional Support Animals the same as service animals?

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are not service animals. ESAs act as companions and help their owners with emotional disorders or mental illnesses. ESA rules and restrictions vary from state to state and may include many other types of animals besides dogs and miniature horses. In fact, the Department of Transportation has recently banned more exotic ESAs such as spiders and snakes!

Must an employer accept service animals? 

Employers must allow the use of service animals in the workplace for disabled employees under Title III of the ADA. Your employee handbook should list any additional rules and guidelines for the workplace. Service animal guidelines are as follows: Service animals must be housebroken, and if an accident does occur, the handler is responsible for the clean up. The handler must also have control of the animal via harness or leash. Service animals must be a reasonable size. And finally, service animals must be up-to-date on all required vaccinations.