Can my service dog go to work with me?
Our response is a qualified, “Yes; however, it may require you to request a “Workplace Accommodation” from your employer. Workplace accommodations between employees and employers are based on the provision in the law that requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified disabled employee, unless to do so would constitute “Undue Hardship”.
What is a “Workplace Accommodation?”
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), persons with disabling conditions can request various types of accommodations to assist them in avoiding problems in the workplace in managing their disease and avoiding the disabling conditions that come with the disease. Diabetes is a condition specifically covered under the ADA.
Accommodations available for employees could range from things as simple as providing a secure place to store medical and treatment supplies, to a private place to test or recover from a hypoglycemic episode. The accommodations that might be arranged can vary based on the needs of the individual and the characteristics of the job and how it may be impacted by your disease. Access for a properly trained assistance dog is a reasonable accommodation that can be requested and appropriately considered by your employer.
What is an “Effective Accommodation?”
Advice from the EEOC states that in choosing among various accommodations, “the preference of the individual with a disability should be given primary consideration. However, the employer providing the accommodation has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations.” It is D4D’s position, that there is no equally effective tool currently available that duplicates the capability of a properly trained diabetic alert dog. Monitoring devices available for diabetics, such as standard glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors, rely on blood sugar measurements and lag the alert provided by a trained diabetic alert dog by 15 to 30 minutes. This delay causes the diabetic to suffer the effects of the hypoglycemia episode rather than treat it before becoming symptomatic.
What is an “Undue Hardship?”
The law does allow an employer to deny an accommodation if it would constitute an “Undue Hardship”. That means that the accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense to the employer or that the accommodation would be unduly extensive, substantial or disruptive, or that it would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. The standard for an Undue Hardship is high and would generally not include providing access for an assistance dog.
While D4D has had clients that were initially denied access for their dogs by employers, most have eventually been approved after the employers have learned of their responsibilities under the law. After experiencing the positive support provided by the presence of these wonderful dogs, many employers express great support for this new addition to their workplace environment.
With the pro-bono assistance of the law firm of Morrison & Forester, D4D has developed a comprehensive lesson module for its clients in order to address workplace accommodations early in its training program; however, there are many materials available to the general public that provide insight into this issue.
Additional resources & information:
The American Diabetes Association provides information on Legal Advocacy at the following link:
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
Job Accommodation Network
Pacific ADA Center
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
Guide to Disability Rights Laws
California Legal Codes with ADA Penalties
California Service Dog Laws
JAN Accommodations for Employees with Diabetes
Diabetes Workplace Accomodations Brochure
JAN Service Animals in the Workplace Brochure
Service Animals in Workplace Brochure
The information on this website is provided for informational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice. Any questions regarding your rights under law should be directed to your own attorney.