As a business owner, you’re responsible for accommodating the needs of disabled employees and customers as long as the accommodations don’t place undue burdens on your business. That includes the duty to accommodate service animals of employees and customers who need them. These classifications can be a little confusing at times, but in most cases, it’s relatively easy to accommodate service animals.
Canadian Laws About Service Animals in the Workplace
Local laws about service animals in the workplace vary by province and city. However, Canada’s federal Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on disability, and not allowing a service animal to enter your premises is typically considered a discriminatory act. As a general rule of thumb, if an individual is allowed to enter a public place, their service dog is allowed to come along.
While the general rule about service animals in the workplace applies in most instances, there are some exceptions. For example, if you run a food manufacturing facility, you can legally ban service dogs in many cases. If you own a cafe, a restaurant or a bar, though, you almost always need to open the door to customers and employees with service animals. Barring an animal can even result in fines or lawsuits. For example, under Ontario’s Blind Person’s Rights Act, business owners may face a $5,000 fine for turning away service animals. Checking with a disability law expert in your province or territory can provide you with the specifics you need to make wise decisions.
Do Service Dogs Need to Wear a Vest in Canada?
While service animals are usually identified by wearing a vest — and most do — this isn’t always the case. With employees, you may be able to request independent certification that an individual needs a service dog, depending on your local laws. But with customers, you may simply want to let them and their vest-wearing service dogs in freely, as requesting to see proof may turn off customers and potentially damage your reputation. But owners of trained service dogs are typically advised to carry certification and training papers, just in case.
Balancing The Duty to Accommodate
In some cases, the service animal that helps one person may induce an allergic reaction in someone else. In most cases, when a service animal enters your place of business with a customer, the animal isn’t on the premises long enough to cause an issue. If you have an employee who is especially susceptible, you may want to vacuum or wet mop to remove hair and dander after the animal has left. If you are trying to juggle the needs of an employee who needs a service animal with an employee who has allergies, put some space between these individuals. Additionally, clean the filters in your HVAC system regularly, add a HEPA filter to the office vacuum cleaner, and keep the air as clean as possible.
Allowing service animals is just one of the accommodations that provinces and territories often require to make the workplace more welcoming to disabled workers and customers. Other accommodations include ramps to allow wheelchair access and use of accommodating software solutions. Business software that helps your business run smoothly includes accounting management software that boosts productivity. 4.3 million customers use QuickBooks. Join them today to help your business thrive for free.