CAN I BRING MY MONKEY TO WORK? « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


How to Handle Assistive Animals in the Workplace

Upon arriving to work on Monday morning your customer service manager asks if she can bring her monkey to the office.

Must management grant her request? It depends. If she needs the monkey to reasonably accommodate her disability, then the employer will most likely have to grant her wish. Only where accommodation choices would legitimately impose undue hardship is the company justified in denying the request.

Under federal law an assistive animal is any dog or miniature horse trained to perform tasks to benefit a disabled individual.

California more broadly defines an assistive animal as any animal “that is necessary as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.”

In addition to trained dogs, California recognizes all trained or untrained support animals that provide “emotional, cognitive, or other similar support to a person with a disability.”

Thus, even an untrained monkey could qualify if it provides emotional support to an applicant or employee with a physical or mental disability.

As part of the interactive process, the employer may ask the customer service manager to provide a letter from the employee’s health care provider confirming that she has a disability and explaining why the assistive animal is required in the workplace (e.g., why the animal is required to enable the employee to perform her essential job functions). The employer may require annual recertification of the continued need for the assistive animal.

Employers may also set minimum standards for assistive animals, such as requiring them to be free from offensive odors, be fully housebroken, and not a danger to anyone’s health or safety.   In California, only within the first two weeks of allowing the assistive animal in the workplace may the employer challenge whether the animal meets such standards.

California employers should:

  • Update any existing no-animals-in-the-workplace policy
  • Consider any animal as a potential assistive animal, not just dogs
  • Engage in a good-faith interactive process to determine whether and how to accommodate a disabled worker requesting to bring an assistive animal to work
  • After permitting the accommodation, carefully keep track of the initial two-week period and closely observe the animal’s behavior to confirm it meets the minimum workplace standards

Please note different rules apply for businesses open to the public concerning customers’ service animals. We will provide more specific information about these requirements in a future article.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Cindy Bamforth

May 15, 2018