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Oct 31, 2019

Accommodating Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace

By Shreya Patel and Peter C. Straszynski
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The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”) applies to all employers in Ontario. The AODA and its regulations require that all businesses serving the public must welcome “service animals”. Employers must allow persons with disabilities to keep their service animals with them anywhere they need to go, except in places where the law excludes service animals.

Under the AODA, an animal qualifies as a “service animal” for a person with a disability:

  • (i)if it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability; or
  • (ii)if the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.

The AODA does not require employers to allow “emotional support animals” in the workplace. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), however, may require employers to permit emotional support animals as a form of accommodation for individuals with certain disabilities. For example, emotional support animals may be prescribed to assist individuals with the following disabilities:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Learning Disorders
  • Autism
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Gender Identity
  • Bipolar
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Employers have an obligation to accommodate employees with a disability up to the point of “undue hardship”. Each accommodation request must be evaluated on a case by case basis. Our Employment and Labour Team regularly assists employers in assessing the scope of their duty to accommodate in these types of situations.