Are employees who use emotional support dogs entitlted to the same ADA protections as other service dogs?  DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Are employees who use emotional support dogs entitlted to the same ADA protections as other service dogs? DoD photo by EJ Hersom

CRST has asked a Florida court to either dismiss or transfer a lawsuit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged the carrier failed to accommodate a prospective employee with a service dog, according to a Forbes report.

The driver in the case, Leon Laferriere, is a veteran who uses his service dog to help control anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. He applied to be a truck driver at CRST in Fort Meyers, Florida, and signed up for the driver’s certification course with CRST’s partner training company.

After being accepted but before attending training, Laferriere allegedly disclosed his disabilities and use of a trained service dog. After completing the training course, Laferriere was allegedly told he could not advance to the on-the-road program due to CRST’s no-pet policy and was not hired by the company.

CRST has not yet addressed the allegations directly, so far only requesting that the case be dismissed entirely or moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division, nearer to its headquarters.

The EEOC claims that this incident violates the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for Laferriere’s disability and for not hiring him because of a disability. It also claims that the company retaliated against Laferriere by not allowing him to re-apply for the job after CRST developed a new process for service dog accommodation.

Ogletree and Deakins, a law firm specializing in labor and employment litigation, commented on the lawsuit and said that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act expressly separates emotional support dogs from other service animals trained to do work or perform a task for an individual with a disability.  

However, Title I of ADA, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees, is silent on the issue of service dogs. An EEOC document released in December 2016 dealing with workplace accommodation of mental health conditions was also silent on the issue of service or support animals. However, the author of the Ogletree blog post from March, James M. Paul, said that this case seems to indicate that EEOC may be taking the position that service animals, including those for emotional support, should be considered a reasonable accommodation for employers to make in certain circumstances.