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Assistance Dogs In The Workplace

Since it’s come up, I thought I’d take a moment to explain for those who don’t know how all this works.

One would think that if a disabled person has a service (assistance) dog, that their dog accompanies them literally everywhere including work. However, there are different sets of laws that govern different areas of life, and the workplace is one of those areas with different laws.

When you, as the disabled handler of an assistance dog, are hired for a job, the dog is not automatically accepted as part of the package deal. Like in the US, you have to ask for what’s called “reasonable accommodations” for your disability. In some cases, the most reasonable accommodation would be for your dog to accompany you to the workplace.

In other cases, other arrangements may be suggested and offered by your employer to mitigate your disability reasonably WITHOUT the dog. Most food service industry jobs fall into this category, jobs directly working with wild animals is another.

In the food service industry, a dog can’t legally be in the kitchen where food is prepared, because of hygiene issues. Waitressing is tricky for the same reason. And as Hostess/Receptionist/PR it would mean having the dog directly in the doorway, impeding access for guests, and putting the dog in a high traffic area increases the risk of injury to the dog.

All that said, alternative reasonable accommodations have been put into place since it is not reasonable for Journey to accompany me to work. Such alternatives include: short, split shifts to reduce stress load, a low stress position, inconspicuous check ins from coworkers (in my case, a coworker will occasionally shoot me a thumbs up. If I’m unable to return the gesture, I need help. If I am able to return it, all clear, carry on – this allows everyone to make sure I’m safe and ok without making my disability obvious to guests and without interrupting the business).

Obviously I will miss Juju while I’m working. But I have to support my family and my workplace has set up reasonable, workable alternatives to keep me safe. So it’s all good.

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