With much of the country’s workforce laid off during the Covid-19 outbreak, millions of people saw the perfect opportunity to incorporate a dog or cat into their family’s daily lives.
Fast forward to more than a year and now millions of people returning to their physical jobs are reluctant to leave their new companions behind.
Now is the perfect time to decide if you want your newly opened workspace to be “pet friendly”. Before making this decision, there are some practical and legal things to consider.
On the positive side of the ledger, a pet-friendly office could be a valuable tool for employee retention. Having Fido or Fluffy at an employee’s feet during the workday can make that person feel more valued. A valued employee is a satisfied employee, who in turn is usually a more productive employee.
In addition, in some cases, employers may even have to allow pets as disabled accommodation. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires service dogs to be allowed in the workplace as long as it does not pose an “undue burden” on the employer. The ADA does not require employers to allow “emotional support” animals, but in some cases it may be worth allowing them as shelter if it is to help employees in their work.
On the negative side, however, not every workplace is suitable for pets. For example, if your business arrangement does not allow pets to stay in designated areas, it could be difficult for those who are uncomfortable with other people’s dogs and cats. Additionally, you need to find a way to accommodate employees with pet allergies.
Establishing a clear and objective approval procedure would also be important. If you subjectively allow some workers to bring pets while not allowing others, you run the risk of being charged with discrimination. A clear, written policy detailing what types of pets can come to work, where they can be, and what circumstances would lead to the loss of pet privileges would go a long way in protecting against such problems.