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 theAnimal Welfare League of Arlington.
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 a day.