California Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace | Mann & Elias
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California Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace


California state law allows people with disabilities to bring emotional support animals or service dogs to the workplace under certain circumstances.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees and job seekers from discrimination based on physical or mental disorders. The Act requires employers to work with employees to accommodate their disabilities when possible.

This is why employers must make accommodations for service dogs, emotional support animals, and psychiatric service dogs in the workplace – if it’s practical.

If you’re unsure about your rights as a disabled employee, an employment attorney in Los Angeles can help. Contacting a lawyer is a wise decision if you feel your rights have been violated.

Do California Employers Have to Follow these Rules?

The California law about accommodating support animals only applies to businesses with five or more employees. And federal disability provisions only apply to businesses with at least 15 employees.

What Type of Animals Qualify as Service or Support Animals?

Not all animals can qualify as a service animal or a support animal. In California, an assistant animal is one that is trained to assist a disabled person.

Animals in this category include trained guide dogs, service dogs, signal dogs, and psychiatric dogs. Emotional support animals – dogs or otherwise – are included here as well.

Emotional support animals are animals that provide support to people with disabilities such as traumatic brain injuries, major depression, or other mental disorders.

While a service dog is specifically trained to respond to a person’s disability, an emotional support animal doesn’t require any training – at least not according to California’s workplace disability laws.

Do Animal Owners Need to Follow Certain Rules?

California law does specify that emotional and support animal owners must meet certain requirements.

  1. The animal must know how to behave in the workplace, have no odors, and provide no distraction.
  2. The animal must not present a threat or danger to anyone in the workplace.
  3. The animal must serve a purpose in helping the disabled employee.

Federal law states that emotional support animals don’t require training to provide emotional support. Therefore, California employers can’t request proof that an emotional support animal has specific training to provide assistance.

If your support animal was unjustly removed from the workplace, you might need to contact an employment attorney. A Los Angeles labor attorney will work to discover why your service pet is no longer allowed on the job.

Can a California Employer Ask for Proof of Disability?

If the employee’s disability isn’t obvious, the employer can request proof of disability. The employee or job applicant will have to provide documents confirming the disability and the need for accommodations.

In California, proof of disability doesn’t have to come from a healthcare provider or medical doctor. People such as clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, and therapists can provide the documentation.

If someone you know was denied a job due to a disability and needs a lawyer, help is available. The Law Offices of Mann & Elias can provide you with a disability discrimination attorney for the workplace.

Are All Employees and Job Applicants Covered by California Law?

In order to receive protection under the disability law, an employee or job applicant must have a disorder or condition that prevents them from performing major life activities.

According to California law, the following disabilities are protected through the disability discrimination law:

  • intellectual or cognitive disabilities
  • emotional illnesses
  • organic brain syndrome
  • learning disabilities
  • autism and schizophrenia
  • clinical depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder

California Law Vs. Federal Law

California defines disability in broader terms than the federal government does. Federal law requires that the disability substantially prevents a person from performing major life activities. But in California, a disability can simply limit a person somewhat and still get labeled as a major disability.

Also in California, a disabled person is covered under the discrimination law if their disability only limits them in performing a particular job. But under federal law, the disabled person must have limitations on performing a broad range of jobs.

California has more lenient restrictions when it comes to applying protection under its disability discrimination law. As a result, California provides more protection to disabled employees when it comes to service dogs and support animals in the workplace.

California also extends workplace protection to employees and job applicants with health impairments. This also includes mental and psychological disorders that require special education. However, these disorders do not have to qualify as mental disabilities.

When is it Unreasonable to Request a Service Dog or Comfort Animal?

A reasonable request for a support animal is when the animal allows an employee to perform essential functions of a job. However, an employee doesn’t have to provide accommodations for a service animal if it causes unnecessary strain on the employer or the workplace.

Contacting a Los Angeles Disability Discrimination Attorney

Service animals are sometimes necessary to help an employee function both on and off of the job. And California has disability discrimination laws in place to protect certain disabled employees.

Have you been unfairly denied the right to have your service animal in the workplace? Do you know someone who was denied a job due to a disability and need a lawyer for assistance?

Contact a Los Angeles disability discrimination attorney from The Law Offices of Mann & Elias. An employment attorney for workplace discrimination can review your situation, and provide guidance on how to proceed.


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