Animals provide love, support, and companionship. They’re great at helping see people through tough times in life – which is exactly what emotional support animals are for.
Emotional support animals are certified to provide unyielding support and companionship for their owners. ESA owners have a variety of rights, including the right to privacy where your ESA is concerned. So how far do these privacy rights extend? Does having an emotional support animal go on your employment record, for example?
Read on for what you need to know about the laws that influence an ESA owner’s right to privacy, and how having an ESA can impact your employment record.
Emotional Support Animals And The Law
There are many laws that protect people with disabilities. These laws ensure that a person with a disability cannot be excluded from circumstances, benefits, or accommodations. Some of these laws also cover those with emotional support animals. The biggest ones to familiarize yourself with are:
Americans with Disabilities Act
For someone with a mental health condition such as anxiety, ESAs can provide the comfort you need to be able to function both in and out of the home. That’s why it’s essential to understand what your rights are with an ESA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does cover ESAs, but does not extend to ESAs in public places. Only trained service dogs are covered by this act to take into public places that animals normally are not allowed in, such as restaurants.
Federal Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act helps to ensure that people with disabilities cannot be denied housing. As long as a person with a disability provides the proper documentation, they cannot be denied housing – including on grounds that they have an ESA.
Under the FHA, those with ESAs cannot be denied housing, public or private, that would normally disallow or limit pets. In this case, the landlord must make reasonable accommodations for the ESA. But keep in mind that the law does not protect the tenant from the consequences of any damage caused by the ESA to the home, or any behavior from the animal that endangers those around it.
Public universities must also accommodate students with ESAs in dorms or college housing. They also cannot charge an extra fee for pets as long as the proper documentation is presented.
The Air Carrier Access Act
You have the right travel with your ESA because the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits an airline from discriminating against you due to the disability that an ESA helps you with. Those who travel by air cannot be limited or denied access because of their disability. It’s important to note that airlines do need advance notice if you require special accommodations to travel with your ESA, such as any special equipment for the animal.
It’s always recommended that you check with the airline before arriving at the airport to find out what documentation is needed by the airline. If traveling internationally, it’s also important to check the laws regarding ESAs in any country to which you’re heading.
ESA Privacy Rights
In order to fully protect your privacy when you have an ESA, you must register them properly and have the proper documentation on hand. Taking these steps ensures that you can take full advantage of your rights under the law for your ESA, but also protects your privacy. This is because you should never be required to disclose any specific details of your disability to someone; having the required documentation for your ESA helps you avoid that situation entirely.
Do I Have To Disclose Your ESA To My Employer?
No potential employer is allowed to ask if you have an ESA during an interview. There is also no registry that a potential employer has access to that would let them know you have an ESA, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Keep in mind that your ESA is tied to your medical history, and it’s against the law for an employer to ask about your medical history during a job interview. That information is private and privileged.
Taking Your ESA To Work
Remember that under the ADA, ESAs are not given the same protections under the law as service animals. Whether or not you can take them to work depends on your employer and their policies, but they are not obligated under the law to allow you to do so. Instead you will need to make a special request at your workplace for accommodations for your ESA.
The good news is that many employers are becoming more understanding when it comes to ESAs, since they recognize that such initiatives support the mental health of their employees and make for a supportive, healthy work environment.
Above all, if you make sure you have the documentation you need for your ESA, you’ll be able to protect your privacy, both in and out of your workplace. Your ESA is vital to your life, so make sure you have a legitimate ESA letter to help you take advantage of your rights.