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Can your boss fire you for needing a service animal at work?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2022 | Employment Law

Service animals provide many benefits to disabled individuals and are welcome in most establishments. These animals, typically dogs, assist employees as they go about their life – including going to work.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers may not prohibit workers from bringing service animals to work. They also may not terminate those who require a service animal.

What qualifies as a service animal?

You cannot just bring your family pet to work and call it a service animal. Such animals must be trained and certified to perform specific tasks for the disabled individual. Owners must control their service dogs at all times in the workplace.

The only two animals that qualify to provide services are dogs and miniature horses. As you might imagine, most people choose a trained dog.

What rules must employers follow?

They may not bar the animal from the workplace, even if some employees suffer from allergies, and they may not ask questions about your disability. For example, they cannot ask you what disability your dog services. Other rules employers must follow include the following:

  • Employers cannot treat those with service dogs differently from other workers.
  • Employers may ask the employee to remove the animal only if it is out of control.
  • Employers cannot make you provide documentation proving the dog completed training as a service animal.
  • Employers and other staff have no obligation to care for or supervise the animal while it is present on the work premises.

Those who qualify may even bring emotional support animals to the workplace under California employment laws.

If your employer fires you shortly after you inform them of your service animal needs, it could be a wrongful termination. If you suspect this is the case, a good next step is familiarizing yourself with state employment laws, especially those related to service animals.