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Emotional support animals at work? Neigh!

Emotional support animals at work? Neigh!

Employers do have latitude in determining whether an employee should be allowed to bring an emotional support animal into the workplace, says an employment law attorney in a blog Wednesday, responding to news reports about a woman who unsuccessfully tried to take her squirrel on a flight.

According to the reports, a woman told Frontier Airlines she was bringing an emotional support animal along when she booked a flight from Orlando, Florida, to Cleveland, but failed to mention the animal was a squirrel.

The police were called when the unidentified woman boarded with the squirrel last month and refused to leave the plane after airline employees explained cats and dogs were the only animals allowed in the airline’s cabins. The woman and her squirrel were eventually escorted off the flight, whose departure was delayed by two hours.

“It is hard not to notice the proliferation of ‘emotional support animals’ — usually dogs or cats, but sometimes turkeys or even spiders,” said J. William Manuel, a partner with Bradley Arrant Cummings LLP in Jackson, Mississippi, writing for his firm’s Labor & Employment Insights blog.

As for employers, the Americans with Disabilities Act “limits service animals to dogs, and, under certain circumstances, miniature horses,” Mr. Manuel wrote.

 But, “Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not automatically qualify as service animals under the ADA and if an employee asks to bring a service animal to work the employer should follow the regular interactive process.

“Usually, if the employee has a disability serious enough to require a service animal, the request for one is reasonable, absent any safety or public health concerns,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Employers, in other words, probably don’t have to worry about their workspace being overrun by spiders, turkeys or even squirrels.

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