Everything you need to know about emotional support animals in the workplace

While emotional support animals are becoming increasingly more popular, they are still widely misunderstood. Here’s what you need to know about them in the workplace. 

Many people don’t realize that emotional support animals (also known as ESAs) provide their owners with a wide range of benefits to help them cope with their mental health issues. 

As a result, it’s natural to wonder what rights ESAs and their owners have regarding the workplace. After all, having your ESA at work with you could potentially help you perform better, making it an attractive option for your boss. 

Continue reading below to learn everything you need to know about emotional support animals in the workplace. 

What is an ESA?

ESAs are pets designated to help treat mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. They provide their owners with emotional support (hence the name) and comfort to help them cope with their symptoms. If you have a mental health disorder and think your pet can help, you’ll need to learn how to register an emotional support animal

They are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Due to this law, ESAs have additional rights over regular pets. For example, property owners can’t discriminate against ESAs even if they have a “no pets” policy. 

Emotional support animals used to fly on planes free of charge, but new regulations removed this in 2020. Now owners need to pay the standard pet fees if they want their ESA to fly with them.

What does this mean in the workplace?

While ESAs have rights when it comes to housing and travel, things are different in the workplace. Unfortunately, emotional support animals don’t have any protection in the workspace. It’s up to the mercy of your employer to let you take your ESA with you to work. 

There’s often confusion regarding this policy due to people associating emotional support animals with service animals. Service animals are similar to ESAs, but they have specialized training to assist someone with a physical disability. For example, many blind people have a service dog to help them get around safely. 

As a result, they have more rights than ESAs regarding housing, workplace, and travel. That’s because service animals have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

What should you do if you want to bring your emotional support animal to work?

If you genuinely think you need your emotional support animal with you at work due to your condition, you could try to file an appeal with your employer. It’s not the most uncommon thing for people to bring their pets to work these days, so your chances of approval could be high. 

That said, your company isn’t legally required to allow your pet to attend work with you. There might be other liabilities that could make it challenging to permit your pet access to the worksite. 

ESAs aren’t going anywhere

With more research conducted on the benefits of emotional support animals for mental health, it’s safe to say that ESAs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. When it comes to the professional world, ESAs still aren’t free from discrimination and require permission from the employer to enter the workspace. 

Luckily, most businesses should be okay with you bringing your ESA to work as long as it doesn’t create any problems or disrupt the company culture. 

Photo by vlad shu