Career Connection Series: “What can be done to make service dogs easier to accept in the workplace?”By Guest Blogger Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant, Job Accommodation Network
This is a great question, and it’s one that we’re hearing a lot at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) as more and more people with disabilities start using service animals.
In the past, service animals were typically used by people who were blind and were often referred to as “seeing eye” dogs. Now people with a variety of disabilities use service animals to assist with everyday tasks. There are service dogs for people with all types of mobility impairments, seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy, psychiatric service dogs for people with mental health impairments, hearing dogs for people who are deaf and even dogs that can detect low blood sugar for people with diabetes.
With this increased use of service animals comes a corresponding increase in public awareness. It’s no longer unusual to see a service dog in a store, restaurant, hotel or even on an airplane. So why then is it so difficult for employers and co-workers to accept a service dog in the workplace?
Perhaps it’s because the workplace was traditionally seen as a sort of kingdom, where employers ruled and employees either followed the rules or sought employment elsewhere. One of the standard rules was often NO ANIMALS ALLOWED.
Even current law makes a distinction between public access for service animals and workplace access. In the workplace, having a service animal present is a form of reasonable accommodation, which means employers, unlike owners of public places, do not have to automatically allow the use of service animals. And many employers resist allowing an employee to bring a service animal to work, not only because it’s against their rules, but also in part because co-workers sometimes express fear or concern about having a dog around.
So how can you overcome this resistance, fear and concern? Let’s start with the employer. Read more