Hey Handbook! Do we have to let our employee bring his emotional-support peacock to work?

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Image Credit: Pexels.com

Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?

No, peacocks can’t fly…commercial.

Several news outlets are reporting that a major US airline refused to allow an emotional-support animal to board a plane at Newark Airport this weekend with its human companion.

Daniella Silva’s quip from her report on NBCNews.com takes the cake, “Finally an answer to the age-old question: Can peacocks fly?”

The airline told NBC News that the peacock “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.”

But an emotional-support peacock at work?

Now, let’s change the facts a bit.

Instead of “a major US airline,” let’s assume that it’s your workplace. And, instead of an airline passenger, it’s one of your marginal employees who shows up to work with a peacock and a doctor’s note stating, “My patient, Johnny Below-Average, suffers from acute workplace stress and anxiety. I am prescribing him a mild anti-anxiety medication and an emotional-support peacock to use as needed.”

What do you do? I mean after you catch yourself before a complete roll of the eyes.

First, you need be thinking Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability where doing so will enable that individual to perform the essential functions of the job.

Let’s assume that acute workplace stress and anxiety is a disability and an emotional-support peacock would allow Johnny to do his job. Is it reasonable to allow Johnny to bring a peacock to work?

Good question.

I found this resource on the Job Accommodation Network that addresses emotional-support animals generally. Here are a couple of tips from that article.

  • An emotional support animal — even a dog — is not classified as a service animal under the ADA.
  • Indeed, there’s nothing in either the ADA or its regulations that addresses emotional support animals as workplace accommodations.
  • Employers are allowed to request medical documentation when an employee requests an accommodation. Under the ADA, employers only have to consider accommodations that are needed because of a disability. (So, you can rely on more than just Johnny’s doctor note.)
  • If you have a no-animals policy, you probably don’t have to create an exception — although, you could depending on the job, work environment, and other related circumstances
  • If you’re inclined to entertain this accommodation request, you’ll want to satisfy yourself that the peacock is trained and won’t disrupt the workplace.
  • Even then, consider starting with a trial run to see how it works out.

Remember also that the ADA contemplates a good-faith, interactive dialogue between employee and employer when exploring possible accommodations. Additionally, the employee is not entitled to his or her first choice of accommodations. So, think about exploring other alternatives to having the peacock at work. If, for example, regular attendance isn’t an essential job function, a flexible schedule that allows your employee to spend more time with the peacock outside of the workplace may work.

Ultimately, you probably don’t have to allow the peacock to come to work.

 

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”