by Steven A. Rowe
Originally published: March 15, 2017
In a recently filed lawsuit, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. CRST International Inc. and CRST Expedited Inc., the EEOC alleges that CRST violated the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") by denying an accommodation, failing to hire and retaliating against an applicant who uses a service dog to help with his post-traumatic stress disorder and mood disorder. The case raises issues related to required accommodations for employees who want to bring service animals and emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion animals into the workplace.
Unfortunately, there is no clear case law guidance specifying what employers are allowed to ask regarding service animals. Fortunately, the Job Accommodation Network ("JAN"), a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, has published guidance on this issue. Pursuant to the ADA, employers have the right to request reasonable documentation that an accommodation is required. The goal of an employer is to understand why the service animal is needed and what it does for the person.
JAN instructs that when an employee with a disability asks to use a service animal at work, the employer has the right to request documentation of the need for the service animal; that the service animal is trained; and that the service animal will not disrupt the workplace. This documentation, however, may not be available from a health care provider, so the employer may need to consider other sources.