Employee Benefit News
Service animals can be trained to assist owners with conditions ranging from visual and hearing impairments to PTSD and diabetes. While these animals undoubtedly provide real assistance to their owners, workplace policies aren’t always clearly defined when it comes to accommodating workers with service animals.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as an animal — most often a dog — that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks performed by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. For example, a person with epilepsy may have a dog that’s trained to detect the onset of a seizure and help the person stay safe during the seizure. Or someone with posttraumatic stress disorder may have a dog who warns its handler of someone approaching from behind, as not to startle them or trigger an episode.
Contrast this with an emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion animal — animals that provide comfort by being with a person. While they can certainly help the handler feel safe and supported, they aren’t trained to perform a specific job or task and do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
Garden City News
A new lawsuit brought against the Village of Garden City alleges that the village knowingly continued with a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) by not installing any public, on-street handicapped parking spaces on Seventh Street, Garden City’s downtown, after residents unsuccessfully lobbied the Traffic Commission to consider adding three handicapped spots last year.
A Fresno judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit against a family-run business whose owners maintain they’re the target of what amounts to a shakedown over Americans with Disabilities Act rules.
Credit Union Journal
A lawsuit against $17 million Aurora Policeman Credit Union, Aurora, Ill., has been dismissed for lack of standing.
The decision by Judge Thomas M. Durkin of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois was announced late Tuesday.
The Illinois Credit Union League and the Credit Union National Association on Wednesday issued a statement noting they joined together to defend APCU by filing a joint amicus curiae brief in support of the credit union’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The two trade groups said APCU was one of many credit unions in Illinois and across the country that have received a demand letter threatening litigation or has been sued for alleged non-compliance with the ADA.
“Similar predatory lawsuits have detrimentally impacted credit unions nationwide alleging non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” they said. ICUL and CUNA added they will continue to work with Congress and the Department of Justice to prospectively address what they termed the “ambiguity” in current law regarding the applicability of the ADA to websites in hopes of preventing “further unwarranted threats” against credit unions.
What does a guitar solo look like if you can't hear? How a sign language interpreter translates concerts
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires any place of public accommodation to provide interpreters if even one person requests one. However, many places, especially temporary festival grounds, have trouble complying.
Airlines are not the only organizations grappling with the complexities surrounding emotional support animals. Colleges and courts are also questioning the need for these animals and the effects they may have on students and juries, respectively, according to new research.
Seyfarth Synopsis: Is it a service animal or an emotional support animal? Do I have to allow both? How to tell one from the other, and the rules that apply.
We get a lot of questions about service and emotional support animals. It’s obvious that there is a lot of confusion out there. Here is how to tell one from the other, and the rules that apply to both.
Public Accommodations. Under Title III of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and virtually all state laws, a service animal is an animal that has been trained to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Emotional support animals—also called therapy or comfort animals—have not been trained to perform work or tasks. Instead, they provide a benefit just by being present. Public accommodations (e.g. restaurants, theatres, stores, health care facilities), are allowed to ask only two questions to determine if an animal is a service animal: (1) Do you need the animal because of a disability? and (2) What work or tasks has this animal been trained to perform? The second question is the key: If the person is unable to identify the work or tasks that the animal has been trained to perform, then the animal is not a service animal.
Under the ADA, only a dog or miniature horse (no, we are not joking) can serve as service animals. The ADA requires public accommodations to allow service animals to accompany their owners anywhere the owners can go, although the Department of Justice made clear a few years ago that they can be prohibited from swimming pools (in the water) as well as shopping carts. The ADA provides no protection for emotional support animals in public accommodations. The Department of Justice has a very helpful FAQ about service animals, and the Washington Post recently published a story that is also useful.
When developing policies, public accommodations must comply with both federal and state law, and some states provide greater protections. For example, in some states, any type of animal (not limited to dogs and miniature horses) can be a service animal provided it has been trained to perform work or tasks. Some states may provide protection for emotional support animals as well. Virtually all states protect service animals in training, which are not addressed by the ADA. Thus, public accommodations must tailor their policies to account for state requirements, or adopt a policy that will comport with the broadest of all state laws nationwide.
Housing. The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to residential facilities and provides protection for emotional support animals in addition to service animals. Thus, property managers, condo associations, co-op boards, and homeowners associations need to keep this in mind when dealing with requests from homeowners and tenants relating to these types of animals. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recent guidance on this topic is here.
Airplanes. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), not the ADA, governs accommodations for people with disabilities on airplanes. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for enforcing the ACAA rules. Historically, the rules have required accommodations for emotional support animals, but recent abuses of the rules by passengers seeking to bring all manner of animals such as peacocks and pigs onto planes has caused the DOT to revisit this issue in a pending rulemaking.
Compliance Strategy. All businesses should have a written policy concerning service and emotional support animals that takes into account federal law, state law, the nature of the business, and the ability of employees to make decisions about whether an animal should be allowed onto the premises. Having a written policy and training employees on the policy is key to ensuring that they know how to respond when one of these animals shows up on the premises.