A United Airlines passenger recently made headlines when she tried to bring her pet peacock on board, which she said she needed for emotional support. For a slew of health and safety reasons, United did not allow the animal on the plane.
While the airline was well within its rights to deny her request, it begs the question: Do you have to let your employees bring their emotional support [insert animal here] to work? Does it violate the ADA if you don’t?
Employment attorney Jon Hyman weighed in on this, breaking down what exactly the ADA says about support animals.
Distinction between service and support animals
Basically, the ADA says that emotional support animals are never a required accommodation. It doesn’t matter if your employee’s support animal is a dog or a peacock — you can stop your workers from bringing it in, Hyman says.
Service animals are a different story. The ADA says you must consider allowing a dog or miniature horse in the workplace if it’s “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Some examples include animals that:
- assist workers who are blind or have low vision with navigation
- alert deaf individuals to sounds
- pull an employee’s wheelchair, and
- assist an individual who is having a seizure.
It’s also important to note that dogs and miniature horses are the only two species that qualify as service animals under the ADA. And even if you have a disabled employee requesting to bring their service dog or horse to work, the interactive process still needs to occur.
But, under the ADA, therapy or support animals of any kind can be denied from the workplace, even if the employee has a note from their doctor. So feel free to give a firm “no” to anyone asking to bring their emotional support peacock to work.