Laws Employees Need to Know if Bringing Pets Into the Office

Columbus Chamber
The Columbus Chamber provides connections, resources and solutions that help small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises grow Central Ohio's economy.

Member Insights by The Donahey Law Firm

It may not come as a shock to you that nearly a quarter of all employees believe pets should be allowed in the workplace. Not only are we obsessed with our furry companions, but many believe pets in the workplace can lead to a happier work environment. And happy employees mean an increase in productivity. While it may become more common for businesses to allow pets, it is crucial to understand legal obligations and liabilities.

Risk of Injury

When you get right down to it, pets are animals and potentially dangerous – even the friendliest of dogs. Protect your business; be aware of liability risks and personal injury lawsuits regarding animal attacks and bites. Pet owners need to be held liable for their pets’ actions. Insist employees get comprehensive liability insurance coverage before they bring their pets to the office. You may even want to require employees to pay any costs associated with dog-bite cases. Get it in writing.

Property Damage

Pets aren’t as cute when they damage your property – carpets, computers and other workplace equipment and furniture. Protect your business from being held responsible for property damage. Again, insist your pet-owning employees get adequate insurance coverage, and include in their contract, they must cover any property damages.

Pet Allergies

Avoid negligence lawsuits. If you’re considering adopting a pet-friendly policy, be sure to consider all employees and make sure they are comfortable having animals in the office. This includes employees with pet allergies. If you moved forward with a pet policy without speaking to your current employees and they had an allergic reaction, you could be held liable for negligence. If creating a new pet-friendly space, make your pet policy known from the get-go. That way, potential employees are aware of all facts upfront and able to make hiring decisions accordingly.

Service Dogs

You may think a pet-policy may not be suitable for your business. But don’t be so quick to ban all dogs from the office. A blanket ban against all dogs includes disallowing service dogs and you may subsequently be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Avoid violating the ADA and any other local laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.

Create a Clear Pet Policy

After you’ve weighed the pros and cons of having pets in the workspace, and you just can’t resist. We don’t blame you! Before allowing pets at work, it’s crucial to establish a legally binding pet policy that states which animals may be brought in, who is held responsible for the animal, and the proper protocols for all incidents, bites, and damages. Make sure the policy is in writing, get employees to agree to your terms contractually, and showcase the policy so that it is clearly visible. Not just for you and your employees, but for any customers and guests that your business may come in contact with.