Employers and the ADA 1
Employers and the ADA
There are likely few who would disagree with the idea that all persons should have equal
opportunities and equal access to work. Discrimination on any basis, whether race, ethnic, age,
gender, religion, or disability based is wrong and denies society the contributions of wonderful,
intelligent, and creative individuals. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to ensure
that persons with physical and mental disabilities were provided equal access to jobs and equal
opportunity to work at their jobs. This goal of the American with Disabilities Act, however, does
not mean that all persons who claim they have a disability and all problems will be solved by the
Americans with Disabilities Act. While society views a disability as one thing the Americans
with Disabilities Act may view it differently. Further, while the Americans with Disabilities Act
may require employers to make accommodations for employees with disabilities this does not
mean that employers must do so for all employees with all disabilities. Many careful
considerations are required.
Elizabeth, a quadriplegic, requested permission to bring Mandy, a small dog trained to
pick up items that she may drop, to the office. Elizabeth indicated that the dog is not only a help
to her if she needs something picked up but also helps her relieve the stress she sometimes
encounters at work, as a letter from her physician indicates. The Americans with Disabilities Act
of 1990 (ADA) permits service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs, to be used at work as a
reasonable accommodation, but companion animals, as service animals, is an issue open to
INSERT CITATION 1 HERE.
Employers and the ADA 2
To determine whether Mandy’s ability to pick up small objects classifies here a service animal
requires an analysis of what is a disability and whether the disability Elizabeth has allows her to
bring Mandy to work. INSERT CITATION 2 HERE.
A review of this definition indicates that Mandy’s ability to pick up small items for
Elizabeth does not necessarily qualify her as a service dog. Indeed, none of the examples
provided by the definition include picking up small items. However, the definition does indicate
that a service animal must be a dog, which Mandy is, and that the dog must be “trained to do
work or perform tasks” for the benefit of a disabled individual, which Mandy is. The key point
the definition makes about who is considered a service animal is that the “work or tasks
performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability”. In this case
Mandy is trained to pick up small items that Elizabeth may accidentally drop. If the items Mandy
is trained to pick up are those which Elizabeth would need for her care or her work then Mandy
would qualify as a service animal. If, however, the items would not be picked up for Elizabeth’s
benefit then Mandy would not qualify as a service animal.
INSERT CITATION 3 HERE. Elizabeth indicates that Mandy helps relieve the stress she
sometimes feels at work. Elizabeth’s use of Mandy to relieve stress indicates that Mandy’s role is
to provide emotional support, well-being, or comfort, which the ADA definition indicates is not
the “work task” of a service animal.
INSERT CITATION 4 HERE.
Not all conditions listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, however, are seen as psychiatric or
mental disabilities for the purpose of the ADA. INSERT CITATION 5 HERE. In Elizabeth’s
Employers and the ADA 3
case this is highly doubtful. Elizabeth indicates that she sometimes feels stress at work.
Conditions that occur sometimes are not those which substantially limit one or more major life
activities. Further, Elizabeth is apparently able to work even if she sometimes feels stress, as the
majority of Americans are. The ADA does not cover this issue and Mandy would not be a
service dog for this condition.
In this situation the decision is not clear cut. Mandy may qualify as a service dog due to
Elizabeth’s quadriplegia but not to relieve her stress. However, permitting Elizabeth to bring
Mandy to work would be a reasonable accommodation and it is not clear if the accommodation is
a reasonable one. INSERT CITATION 6 HERE. Therefore, to allow Elizabeth to bring Mandy
into the workplace would be an accommodation. The key question, however, is whether the
accommodation would be reasonable.
INSERT CITATION 7 HERE.
In this situation Elizabeth has been at work for a period of time prior to indicating that
she wanted to bring Mandy to work with her. The fact that Elizabeth could perform the work, her
essential functions, without the use Mandy for any period of time, suggests that Mandy is not
necessary for her work. Further, if Mandy may create a problem in the environment, perhaps if
other workers are allergic to dogs or cannot otherwise tolerate their presence, then this may be an
unreasonable request. However, Elizabeth may often have moments where her mobility issues
cause her to drop items. If this occurs as part of her essential functions and in the past Elizabeth
has relied on co-workers but Mandy can help in this situation, then Elizabeth should be allowed
to bring Mandy with her for this purpose. Mandy does not meet the qualification as a service dog
for a mental disability, however, and if dropping items does not fulfill an essential function of
Employers and the ADA 4
Elizabeth’s job Mandy should not be allowed to work. Likewise, if Mandy disturbs other
workers or causes them difficulties, then it would be unreasonable for Mandy to be allowed at