But, will the EEOC’s bark be louder than its bite?
I’ll discuss service animals and Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations after the jump…
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Leon Laferriere applied for a truck driver position with CRST in Fort Myers and signed up for the drivers’ certification course with CRST’s partner training company. After being admitted to the truck driver training program, but prior to leaving for to begin it, Laferriere disclosed his disabilities and use of a trained service dog. Laferriere is a veteran who uses a trained service dog to help control anxiety and to wake him from nightmares caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Laferriere successfully completed the training program, but was denied advancement to orientation and additional on-the-road training. CRST told Laferriere that he could not advance to the on-the-road program, which requires overnights away from home, due to CRST’s “no pet” policy. Laferriere was subsequently denied hire.
The EEOC also alleges that around the same time that CRST denied Laferriere’s request for accommodation, CRST developed a new “Service Dog Process” to address accommodation requests seeking the use of a service dog. But CRST denied Laferriere the opportunity to qualify for accommodation under the new policy.
So a company must permit a disabled employee to use a service dog? Well, it depends.
Since the EEOC often cites the Job Accommodation Network as a source of identifying possible reasonable accommodations to permit an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, let’s head over there for a primer:
[The ADA] does not require employers to automatically allow employees to bring their service animals to work. Instead, allowing a service animal into the workplace is a form of reasonable accommodation.
What this means for employers: Employers must consider allowing an employee with a disability to use a service animal at work unless doing so would result in an undue hardship. In addition, the ADA allows employers to choose among effective accommodations, although providing a substitute accommodation for a service animal could bring up other tricky issues.
Ok, let’s break this down:
- An employee requests that he be allowed to have a trained, service dog at work to permit him to perform the essential functions of the job.
- And, let’s assume that your industry isn’t one in which there are restrictions on service animals (e.g., the kitchen of a restaurant).
- If there is another reasonable accommodation available, go ahead and propose it.
- Otherwise, it’s bring your dog to work day.
PS – If that service animal needs training, then allowing that training may, in itself, be another reasonable accommodation. Plus, while employees are responsible for the care of their service animals, employers may have to provide accommodations that enable the employees to do so.