by Rachelle Hill, Associate, Bean, Kinney & Korman
Take Your Dog to Work Day ("TYDTWDay"), sponsored
by Pet Sitters International, is Friday, June 26, 2015. Every year, more than
10,000 companies participate, to celebrate dogs and encourage adoptions from
local shelters. This event also presents
a great opportunity to partner with a local animal rescue, such as Arlington
Chamber members Homeward Trails Animal
Rescue and the Animal Welfare League of
If your company is considering allowing pets for the day,
there are some legal implications to consider.
First, there are certain businesses, such as food or
hospital settings, that cannot allow pets for sanitary reasons.
Even if dogs are not a health violation, employee health
must be considered. Before allowing pets, survey your employees to find out
about any allergies that may make the event problematic, and to assess overall
opinions about having dogs in the office. Employees with severe allergies may
need to be physically separated from pets, or this may make it impractical to
participate in TYDTWDay.
The next thing to find out about is whether pets are allowed
by the property owner in cases of leased office space. Check the lease to
determine whether this is covered. When in doubt, ask for written permission.
It may not be pleasant to consider, but the potential to be
liable for dog bites is an important consideration. In most cases, it is the
owner of the dog who is liable. However, in some personal injury lawsuits, the
employer can be jointly liable.
A solution for this problem is to require employees to
maintain insurance covering damage or injury by the dog. Employers should
review the policy for any workplace exceptions. It is best not to allow someone
to bring a dog to work if you are in doubt, until you have obtained a business
policy that would cover such instances.
There can also be legal implications with regards to the
Americans with Disabilities Act. While courts have not come to any firm
conclusions, there have been instances where employees have submitted ADA
complaints both for businesses allowing and prohibiting pets. For example, one
case involved someone who claimed a fear of cats was a disability in a
cat-friendly workplace. Another case covered a claim that an employee with
anxiety would perform better with his dog at work. Courts in both cases were
reluctant to side with the employees. However, the potential for ADA claims is
something to bear in mind.
While businesses that decide to allow pets more generally
should create a comprehensive pet policy, even those that participate in
TYDTWDay should consider laying down some ground rules.
Employees who want to participate by bringing Fido to work
should be made aware that they will need to be in complete control of the dog
at all times, and have the ability to take it out of the office if necessary.
They should also bring documentation of the dog’s vaccination records.
Make sure your employees know that their dog must be
well-behaved, not aggressive, housebroken and not an excessive barker.
In addition, consider having employees sign an
indemnification agreement to pay the cost of defending any lawsuit relating to
a dog bite.
As long as your business is careful about
considering the potential legal issues, Take Your Dog to Work Day can be a
great way to boost morale and allow employees to enjoy the company of dogs for