The Lynch Law Firm Will Review Your Service Animal Policy for Free! (Or even make you your first draft!)
Service dogs are highly trained working animals that assist those with impaired mobility, vision, PTSD, or other disabilities to perform specific tasks. It is not unusual for employees with disabilities to have their service animal accompany them to the workplace. Employers can prepare themselves and their staff to accommodate employees with disabilities in the workplace by providing everyone with a clear understanding of what it entails to have a service animal on the premises. An informative, up-to-date, and easily accessible employee handbook is an effective way to share your company’s policy with everyone on your team. Complete this form now, and we will review your company’s service animal policy for free!
Including a Service Animal Policy in the Employee Handbook
Your employee handbook should include information about your company's policy on service animals in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and Title I of the ADA states that service animals are a reasonable accommodation. Creating a comprehensive employee handbook should be a top priority for all organizations because this living document can help mitigate many of the risks associated with being an employer. Make sure your organization's policies regarding service animals comply with the ADA by calling the Lynch Law Firm now to schedule a FREE review of your service animal policy.
The Americans Disabilities Act Protects Disabled People
The Americans with Disabilities Act is this country's most comprehensive federal civil rights statute. It was also designed to protect the rights of disabled individuals and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Under Title I of the ADA, service animals are considered a reasonable accommodation.
The ADA Protects Disabled People with Service Animals
The ADA defines a service animal as trained to assist a disabled individual. If the animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal under the terms of the ADA, and no licensing or certification is required by state or local governments. According to the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees with disabilities. Under the statute's terms, the ADA requires employers to allow employees with disabilities to bring their service animals to work and onto the premises in whatever areas employees are generally allowed.
What is a Service Animal?
The ADA defines service animals as "Dogs individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."1 According to the ADA:
Service animals are:
· Any breed and any size of dog
· Trained to perform a task related to a person's disability.
Service animals are not:
· Required to be certified or go through a professional training program.
· Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they're a service dog
· Emotional support or comfort dogs, because providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person's disability
(There is a separate provision allowing miniature horses to serve as service animals, but they are subject to certain limitations.)
Other kinds of animals are not considered to be service animals.
What is the Difference Between a Pet and a Service Animal?
While service animals can sometimes be identified by their distinct collars or harnesses, service animals are not required to wear special gear or be licensed, certified, or carry identification documents of any kind. Employers must permit the service animal of an employee to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where employees are allowed to go. Individuals and their service animals may not be segregated from other staff members.
If you are an employer and you believe that the service animal may actually just be a pet, you are within your rights to ask your employee if they require a service animal to accompany them due to a disability. However, it is important to note that employers may not insist on proof or certification before permitting the service animal to remain on the premises and in the company of the person with the disability.
Even If the Employer Has a "No Pets" Policy, Service Animals are Allowed.
The ADA protects disabled people and their service animals, and Title I of the ADA covers employment. The terms of the ADA require employers to modify any "no pets" policies and permit disabled individuals to be accompanied by their service animal. Service animals are not pets; they are working animals.
Does the ADA Take Priority Over Other Regulations?
The ADA provides a greater degree of protection for individuals with disabilities, and the terms of the ADA take priority over the local or state laws or regulations. If employers refuse to admit service animals based on local health department regulations or other state or local laws, the employer will be in violation the ADA. Those who violate the ADA may be required to pay damages and penalties.
Can Employers Impose Fees When Employees Bring Service Animals to Work?
No fees may not be imposed on an employee with a disability who brings a service animal to work. It is possible, however, for an employer to ask the employee to pay for cleaning or repairing items that the service animal damaged.
Is the Employer Responsible for their Employee's Service Animal?
The care and management of a service animal are the responsibility of the animal's owner. Employers are not required to provide any special care for their employee’s service animal.
What if the Service Animal is Dangerous?
There may be circumstances when an employer is not required to accommodate a service animal. If accommodating the animal threatens the health or safety of others or keeping the animal on the premises would fundamentally alter the nature of the business, the employer can ask that the animal be removed from the building.
Fill out this form for a FREE Review of Your Service Animal Policy
The Lynch Law Firm offers the local business community a FREE review of their service animal policy. This offer is for a brief time only! Call us to set up your appointment now.
The Lynch Law Firm Supports Texas Unites for Animals
Natalie Lynch, the managing member of the Lynch Law Firm, shared her expertise last fall at the annual meeting of the Texas Unites for Animals Conference. Over 500 animal welfare professionals across Texas come together to share their passion for supporting animal welfare every year.
Founded in 2015, Texas Unites is an animal welfare support organization that serves Texas and its surrounding states. The entity was created to provide information, support, and guidance by enhancing professionalism in the animal welfare industry and promoting respect and compassion for all life.
As someone who has tremendous compassion for all animals, Natalie Lynch was happy to donate her time and delivered a presentation on employment issues surrounding shelter professionals and volunteers. She also discussed the distinctions between volunteers and employees, laws that are often ignored, free speech and public space, wage structures, discrimination, and whistleblowing.
Service animals are essential to the health and well-being of their owners, and employers should include service animal policies in their employee handbooks. If you are an employer who would like the attorneys at the Lynch Law Firm to review your company's service animal policy for free, please fill out our form.
The Lynch Law Firm Will Navigate Your Legal Matter from Inception to Resolution
If you are an employer with a labor and employment law issue, the Lynch Law Firm has the resources to help you find a resolution. In addition to defending employers against employees’ claims, the attorneys at the Lynch Law Firm team can also assist you in developing the following:
● Workplace Investigations
● Harassment Prevention Training Modules
● Employee Manuals
● Performance Evaluation Materials
● Employment Contracts
● Legal Agreements for non-disclosure, non-compete, and severance.