Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes – and many of them are even invisible. A lot of people with hidden disabilities are able to function much better at work with the use of assistive animals.
Assistive animals include seeing-eye dogs and dogs that are trained to help people in wheelchairs, as well as animals trained to alert people with low blood sugar that they need medication or people with epilepsy that they’re about to have a seizure. Most employers (one would hope) would be understanding of the need to accommodate those kinds of animals at work.
But what about emotional support animals? Can you ask your employer to permit you to bring one to work because you have a cognitive or emotional disability?
The law in California is on your side – to a point
California Code of Regulation section 11064(b) says that emotional support animals can be a reasonable accommodation for conditions as broadly different as depression or traumatic brain injuries (and many others).
Whether or not your request is reasonable, however, has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In addition, even though emotional support animals (unlike service dogs) do not require specific training, employers can impose certain restrictions. For example, your employer can:
- Require the animal to be fully housebroken
- Require the animal to be free of offensive odors
- Insist that the animal be trained to behave appropriately in the workplace
- Insist that the animal not be a danger to the health or safety of others
Because negotiations over reasonable accommodations and support animals can sometimes get complicated, it helps to understand your rights – and the law – as you seek to meet your workplace needs.