If you own an emotional support animal, you’re probably discovering all sorts of ways your beloved pet can help and support you. An ESA can be extremely valuable in so many different situations. If your ESA is doing its job, you’ll no doubt want them with you as often as possible, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Something you might be wondering is “Can I bring my emotional support animal to work?” A natural thought, given that your special pet is your companion and your comfort. So let’s take a look at what we know about ESAs in the workplace.
What are the rules pertaining to ESAs in the office?
Generally speaking, there are no set “rules” as such. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does state that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees with disabilities, which can include bringing a pet to work; but only service animals are covered under this rule. That said, a few states have incorporated disability discrimination laws that allow ESAs to be classed as “reasonable accommodation,” so it’s worth checking this out in your particular location. ESAs are not the same as service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks to help their owner. Emotional support animals are not trained in any way, and as such are not included under the Disabilities Act. However, there is a bit of a gray area here.
Stress and anxiety could and should qualify as disabilities that need to be catered for. A generally recognized description of an ESA is that it’s a “companion animal” a mental health expert has prescribed in order to help a person with an emotional or psychological disability. If you are that person, you might reasonably expect to be allowed to have your emotional support animal in the office. The problem is that your employer is not automatically required to grant this request by law. You will have to put your case to them personally.
What’s the best way to ask “Can I bring my ESA to work?”
First of all, remember that there is no obligation on your boss to allow this, so be careful how you go about asking. Don’t make any demands! Make your request in a reasonable way, outlining why you feel it would benefit you to have your emotional support animal in the office. You don’t need to go into the specifics of your condition if you don’t want to, but it might help your case if you’re prepared to do this. There are plenty of situations where you might need your emotional support animal, so you need to demonstrate that your ESA is of service to you and not just a pet.
Of course, you must also have your legitimate ESA letter to hand to show to your employer. It should also go without saying that your ESA must be quiet, well-behaved, and not a nuisance or a distraction in any way to your fellow employees. ESAs in the workplace must be as unobtrusive as possible so that there is no disruption to the work flow. If you have your own office, then it’s probably more likely that your boss will agree to your request. If you share an office with co-workers, it could be more complicated. You and your employer will have to consider whether any of the other employees have a pet allergy, for example, or even a fear of your type of ESA. These things will need to be discussed delicately, and ultimately, it’s up to your employer to determine the right thing to do in the best interests of all employees.
One option is to suggest a trial period to your employer. Propose a period of perhaps two or three weeks so that you, your pet, your employer, and your colleagues all get a chance to see how things might work with your emotional support animal in the office. Before you do this, it’s wise to take some time to consider the logistics of having your ESA in the workplace. Where will it sleep? What about toilet breaks and eating? Will it need walking/exercising?
Further suggestions for ESAs in the workplace
If all else fails, consider whether your job is the sort that you could do from home. If not full-time, could you do a few days a week at home? This might be worth discussing with your employer as an alternative. If it’s your actual pet that’s the problem, could you consider getting a different or additional ESA? Perhaps a smaller dog that would be more manageable in the office, or an ESA you could keep enclosed. You don’t need to dump your current beloved pet, though! If you’re getting a second ESA, remember that you will have to register it, as the pet’s name and type must be on the letter of approval.
Hopefully this guide will help you a little if you’re looking to have your emotional support animal in the office. Just remember that your employer is not obliged to agree, but if you have a genuine need, a genuine ESA letter, and proof that your ESA will not be a hindrance to you or your fellow employees, then your boss should at least be open to giving due consideration to your request.