Bringing a service dog into the workplace can raise a lot of questions. While an employer probably understands the importance of the assistance dog and the legalities that allow him or her to be there, the logistics of the situation can be challenging to deal with. Once people realize how to register a service dog and what it takes to become one, many of the worries dissipate. The following discusses some of the concerns of employers and employees in regards to having an assistance dog in the workplace.
Other Employees’ Concerns
One of the concerns of employers is how having a dog in the workplace will affect other workers in the office. There is the trepidation that someone may be fearful of dogs or that someone may be allergic. While these are legitimate concerns, looking at the facts can help ease these fears.
People who are fearful of dogs have possibly had a bad experience with a hyper or uncontrolled animal.
When you register as a service dog, there are certain manners and behaviors that the dog has learned. This results in a calm mannered dog that is focused on its owner and leaves everyone else alone.
There is a chance that a co-worker may be allergic to the dog, although only about 10 percent of the population is in fact allergic to animals. Fortunately, there are some ways to combat this issue. One is to keep ample space in between the service dog and allergic employee, which may be accomplished by providing one of the employees a private office or enclosed workspace. Other accommodations may include:
• Allowing flexible scheduling
• Alternative communication, such as telephone, email, and video- or teleconferencing, between the two parties
• Supplying an air purifier in the office or at each individual workstation
• Adding HEPA filters to the ventilation system of the office
• Vacuuming and dusting the work area on a regular basis
Taking these steps should at least help control the allergies in the office.
Some employers worry that having a dog in the office will be distracting. Even though a registered service dog is trained to be quiet and calm and is often hardly noticed by others around him or her, there is the concern that dog lovers in the office may spend too much of their time and attention with the dog.
These employees should be told that the dog is there solely for the purpose of helping his owner and should not be petted or played with. Another option that the staff may come up with collectively is to take turns walking the dog throughout the day. During this period of time (with the owner’s permission), the service vest may come off and the walker can have some play time with him before coming back inside to resume the dog’s duties.
Difficulties Providing Reasonable Accommodation
Federal law, as well as some city and state laws, requires that employers do their best to accommodate an employee and his or her service animal unless it results in excessive hardship. However, proving this hardship is often difficult especially if one of the main responsibilities of the dog is to help with personal medical needs. Often a trial period is recommended for employers who are hesitant about having a service dog in the workplace. As a result, many employers discover that their concerns were unsupported.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the owner to make sure that the dog keeps up with the training and continues to behave appropriately for the task at hand and the environment he or she is in. While having a service dog is imperative for many people, it takes a lot of work and responsibility.