For many individuals, a job is important for providing income and self-esteem. People with disabilities not only want to be employed but have the right to be employed. But how does that work? And what are the rules regarding Service Dogs? This article is a simple overview of the process of obtaining a job. You will also find resources to assist you, the person disabled per the ADA definition who has a task trained Service Dog that mitigates his or her disability, through this process.
Which Laws Apply to Which Employers?
Title I of the ADA covers people with disabilities at some jobs. Public and private employers with 15 or more employees are required to comply with the provisions of Title 1 of the ADA. There are some exemptions: the executive agencies of the federal government, Native American Tribes, and tax-exempt private membership clubs that are not labor organizations. It is important when you begin your job search with your Service Dog to consider whether you are choosing a job that must comply with the ADA.
Apply for the Job(s) of Your Choice
The next step is choosing jobs for which you want to apply. Per Title I of the ADA a company with 15 or more employees must consider you, a person with a disability, if you have the skills, education and/or experience to qualify for the position. These companies must also consider you using your Service Dog, a job accommodation under Title 1 of the ADA, if you request it.
After selecting jobs for which you are qualified, complete the application and attach a neatly typed resume and letter of interest. You are not required to disclose your health information or the fact that you would like a reasonable accommodation (for example: bringing your service dog to work) on your application.
Then the hard part begins, waiting for an interview.
Job Interviews and Service Dogs
There are two types of interviews: public and private. Public interviews take place at job fairs. These are covered by Title II or Title III of the ADA depending on the sponsor of the job fair. You are welcome to bring your Service Dog with you to these public events. In the case that you do bring your Service Dog, realize that 1) your Service Dog should be capable of dealing with the chaos of the job fair and not be stressed 2) you are announcing to your potential employers at the job fair that you have a disability and may need a reasonable accommodation. This may or may not count in your favor. It is something to consider.
Private (one on one) interviews occur at the company’s place of business. Bringing your service dog with you to your interview is not automatic but is a negotiated request with potential employers. Just showing up with your service dog is not appropriate.
If the company employs 15 or more employees, a request to bring a service dog to an interview is covered under Title I employment reasonable accommodations. The potential employer may ask for medical verification. Be prepared to provide it.
The other option, if you are comfortable and/or able to work without your Service Dog for a short period of time is to utilize another accommodation (perhaps a service human, cane or some other device), complete the interview, then share your disability, and request the reasonable accommodation after accepting a job offer.
Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
Once the job is yours, you can decide whether to attempt the job without your Service Dog for a length of time or immediately request a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a request to an employer to modify the job, the workplace, or how things are typically done so that qualified disabled people can function equally in the workplace.
A request for a reasonable accommodation is usually made to the Human Resources department in writing, though it may be done orally. The reasonable accommodation process is interactive. You can expect that your job will (and legally may) ask for some medical information to verify your need. AskJAN and the EEOC are excellent resources regarding which questions and how much information may be requested.
The Responsibilities of the Employer
What is the employer expected to do following a reasonable accommodation request?
- They determine that employee is disabled.
- The employer reviews the job description to determine the essential job functions that may require modifications or accommodations.
- They work with the employee to select a variety of accommodations or modifications to reduce or remove barriers in the workplace.
- The employer works with the employee to select the most appropriate accommodations and modifications.
In the Event of Any Problems
Remember that your workplace has several steps it must take (see above), but you are to be included in the process. Politely emailing Human Resources for an update after a week, to check on what has been accomplished and indicate you understand the steps in the process would be appropriate.
If you feel that your reasonable accommodation process has stalled or you are not being included in making the making the choices, contact AskJAN ( tel:800-526-7234) or the EEOC (tel:800-669-4000) for assistance and guidance.