What Rights do I have to Use the Aid of a Disability Animal at Work
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Service animals may assist persons who are blind or persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities, such as alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds, pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments or assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The disabled person may not be charged an extra fee to accommodate the service animal. The definition of disability includes mental as well as physical disabilities for purposes of accommodating service animals. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations, like local health department regulations or other state or local laws. Any service animal that displays loud behavior or vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded.
The ADA prohibits private and state and local government employers, as well as employment agencies and labor unions, from discriminating on the basis of disability. It does not apply to private employers with fewer than 15 employees. The ADA prohibits several specific forms of disability discrimination including failure by an employer to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled workers to work. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to qualified persons with disabilities unless such accommodations would cause an undue hardship to the employer. A disabled person under the ADA is someone who is substantially limited in the ability to perform a major life activity or who has a record of such an impairment or who is regarded as having such an impairment. To be qualified as a disabled person under the ADA, an individual must show an ability to perform all of the essential job functions either with or without a reasonable accommodation. Courts look at mitigating measures in determining whether an individual is disabled. One type of reasonable accommodation is to modify the work environment or the manner in which the job is performed
to allow disabled individuals to perform the job's essential functions. Specific types of reasonable accommodations may include making an office wheelchair accessible; restructuring jobs; providing part-time or modified work schedules; modifying or purchasing special furniture or equipment; changing employment policies; providing readers or interpreters; and reassigning disabled individuals to vacant positions. A reasonable accommodation may also be to permit a disabled person to provide and use equipment, aids or services that the employer is not
obligated to provide, such as an employer allowing an individual who is blind to use a guide dog at work. The ADA does not require that reasonable accommodations be made when the accommodations would cause employers an undue hardship. Undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense when compared with the employer's resources and circumstances. The employer's financial capabilities are one factor in defining undue hardship, but undue hardship also occurs when the reasonable accommodation would be unduly extensive or disruptive or
would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. Courts determine on a case-by-case basis whether a reasonable accommodation would be an undue hardship for the employer.
Individuals who want a reasonable accommodation must request it but need not mention the ADA or the phrase "reasonable accommodation." It is sufficient if employees simply ask for an accommodation for a medical reason. Once a request is made, employers are obligated to investigate the request and determine if the requesting employee is qualified as a
disabled individual under the ADA. If that determination is positive, then the employer must begin an interactive process with that employee, determining that individual's needs and identifying the accommodation that should be made. In these cases, employers are entitled to obtain documentation, such as medical records or a letter from a doctor, to learn about the disability, its functional limitations, and the sort of accommodation that needs to be made. Unless the disability is obvious, that employee must provide the employer with sufficient information about the disability to help the employer determine a reasonable accommodation. As long as the reasonable accommodation is effective in allowing the disabled individuals to perform their job functions and receive the same benefits as other, non-disabled individuals, then
employers have the right to choose among reasonable accommodation options. Employers may choose options that are cheaper or easier to provide, for example. If employers offer disabled employees reasonable accommodations that employees do not want, the employers may not force the employees to accept the accommodations. If, however, the employee's
refusal of the reasonable accommodation results in the individual's inability to perform the essential functions of the job, the employee may be deemed unqualified for the job. The employer may then be justified in terminating the employee.