JAN Guidance on Service Animals in the Workplace

The following is guidance from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor:

SERVICE ANIMALS AS WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS: A PRACTICAL APPROACH Because more people are using service animals, employers are receiving more requests from employees who want to use their service animals in the workplace. This guidance is based in part on information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but does not represent the EEOC’s formal position on these issues or legal advice.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) include a definition of service animal? There is a definition of service animal and specific guidelines in parts of the ADA, but not in the part that deals with employment. Under the employment provisions (title I), there is no definition of service animal and no specific guidelines for employers to follow when an employee asks to bring a service animal to work.

Do employers have to allow employees with disabilities to use service animals in the workplace? Because title I does not specifically address service animals, a request from an employee to bring a service animal to work can be processed like any other request for reasonable accommodation. This means that employers must consider the request, but do not have to automatically allow employees to bring their service animals to work.

What this means for employers: From a practical standpoint, a request to bring a service animal to work is really a request for an employer to modify its no-animals-in-the-workplace policy. If you do not have a policy and allow other employees to bring in animals, then you should allow employees with disabilities to bring in service animals without going through the accommodation process. For employers who have no-animal policies, you must consider modifying those policies on a case by case basis to allow an employee to use a service animal at work, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship.

What this means for employees: You should ask your employer before bringing a service animal to work unless the employer allows animals in the workplace in general.

Can employers opt to provide other accommodations instead of allowing an employee to use a service animal in the workplace? The ADA allows employers to choose among effective accommodations so an employer might opt for another accommodation, although providing a substitute accommodation for a service animal could bring up other tricky issues. For example, the service animal may help with personal, medical issues. Service animals may also provide support that other types of accommodations cannot provide, such as a sense of security, independence, and confidence.

What this means for employers: In general, employers should not be involved in an employee’s personal medical decisions so you should not insist that an employee take care of his medical needs in a different way. Because a service animal often helps with personal medical needs and provides supports that employers cannot provide, when possible you should give preference to an employee’s request to use a service animal in the workplace.

What this means for employees: When requesting to use a service animal in the workplace, you may want to explain to the employer that the service animal also provides personal and medical support.

For additional information, feel free to contact NASA Disability Manager Rebecca Doroshenk at (202) 358-0038, Rebecca.D.Doroshenk@nasa.gov.

Thoughts on the Holiday Season from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management

Frank Gonzalez, Conflict Management and Resolution Manager in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, offers these thoughts as we enter the holiday season. Thank you, Frank!

Holiday Season?

Every year, just prior to Thanksgiving, the United States begins what people call the “Holiday Season.” When asked what this means, many will refer to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and often throw in Hanukkah as the holidays of the season. In reality, there are many more religious and secular events at this time of the year.

For example, Bodhi Day is observed by Buddhists on December 8, celebrating the day that Siddartha Guatama experienced enlightenment and became the figure we know as the Buddha. Many Hindus celebrate Pancha Ganapati from December 21 to 25 honoring Lord Ganesha, Lord of culture and new beginnings. Many Pagan faiths celebrate the Winter Solstice (Yule, Yalda). The Hopi and Zuni celebrate Soyal at the Solstice, as well. Dongzhi festival is another Solstice festival in in parts of Asia. Kwanzaa begins December 26 and ends on January 1. In addition, there are many more observances besides these.

One thing to note is not all Christians who celebrate Christmas do so in December. The Orthodox Churches, as they remained on the Julian calendar for the religious holy days, celebrate on January 7. Moreover, there are devout Christians who do not celebrate Christmas at all.

As we at NASA look to be inclusive of all our team, look to celebrate with each other and have your holiday parties or celebrations share and bring your NASA family together.

If we look, we find the holiday season is twelve months long. The year is full of holidays and celebrations both religious and secular as shown by just one Wikipedia page.

We all have our favorites (I am partial to 4 May and 13 August despite no special food for these days!), and they are a great opportunity to learn about other traditions and share some fun times.