Q. One of our employees has requested permission to bring her therapy dog to work every day. Are we required to allow her to do this?
A. Maybe. Bringing certain animals to work might qualify as a reasonable accommodation under California’s disability regulations. The California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) recently issued new regulations clarifying this issue.
Section 7293.6(p)(2)(B) of the regulations specifically mandate that employers may have to allow “assistive animals” into the workplace as a reasonable accommodation. Section 7293.6(a)(1)(D) defines assistive animals to include not only “guide” and “signal” dogs for the visually and hearing impaired, but also “support” animals that provide emotional support to individuals with disabilities such as depression.
If an employee asks to bring an assistive animal to work as a reasonable accommodation, under Section 7294.0(e)(1), the employer is entitled to a letter from the employee’s health care provider both confirming the existence of a disability and explaining why the presence of the animal in the workplace is necessary to allow the employee to perform his or her essential job functions.