Truth be told, whether it was a large peacock, or a small parakeet, or a dog, or any other animal labeled “emotional support,” the airline acted well within its rights, whether dealing with a customer or an employee.
The ADA makes no reasonable accommodation allowance for “emotional support animals” of any species and of any size. Period.
The ADA makes a clear distinction between “service animals” (some of which an employer must consider accommodating) and “emotional support animals” (none of which must be accommodated).
A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. …
Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under … the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. … It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.
In what circumstances must an employer consider allowing a service animal as an accommodation? When the work or tasks performed by the service animal is directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples include:
- Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
- Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
- Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
- Pulling a wheelchair.
- Assisting an individual during a seizure.
- Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
- Alerting a diabetic to irregular blood-sugar levels.
- Sensing that an anxiety attack is about to happen and taking a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact.
- Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
- Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
For more on pets at work, I suggest the following from the archives:
- Pets in your workplace? Assess the risks and draft a policy.
- Battle of the accommodations
- The 5th nominee for the “worst employer of 2017” is … the no-pets-for-vets policy
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.