Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to offer a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to a job, employment practice, or work environment that often includes modifying equipment or devices; modifying training materials; making facilities readily accessible to disabled employees; modifying work schedules; or reassignments to vacant jobs. A reasonable accommodation may also include the use of a service animal to allow a disabled employee to perform the essential duties of a job.
Reasonable Accommodations Involving Service Animals
Many people with disabilities rely on service animals to fully engage in everyday life, including employment. The number of job applicants and employees requesting the use of a service animal as a reasonable accommodation is increasing as the number of specialized tasks a service animal can perform grows.
Although an employer is not required to automatically allow service animals under Title I, they must consider the request for use of a service animal by an employee or applicant as they would any other request for a reasonable accommodation. This means that an interactive process should take place to determine whether granting the request is necessary while not unduly burdensome to the employer.
That said, disabled applicants and employees are not guaranteed a preferred accommodation, only a reasonable accommodation necessary to perform the essential functions of a job. An employer can certainly offer an alternative accommodation instead of the use of a service animal as long as the accommodation would allow the employee to perform essential duties of their job.
Despite the law, it is not always smooth sailing for disabled applicants and employees who wish to bring a service animal to their job. Recently, the EEOC sued a well know pizza chain because they not only failed to engage in an interactive process before denying a disabled employee’s request for the use of a service dog, but summarily fired the employee after his request was denied.
Not only does the ADA prohibit employers from terminating employees because of a disability – employment discrimination – the employer cannot deny an employee equal employment opportunities if a reasonable accommodation exists so long as it does not pose a hardship or safety issue to the employer. Violations of the law protecting disabled applicants and employees can result in a judgment for damages including back pay, front pay or reinstatement, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
Contact an Experienced Employment Discrimination Lawyer
Reasonable accommodations for disabled workers ensure that qualified applicants and employees are provided the opportunity to perform the essential functions of a job and enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment. If you have been denied a reasonable accommodation for a disability in the workplace or have suffered an adverse employment action due to employment discrimination, contact Des Moines employment law attorney Marc Humphrey for assistance today.