A woman says her employer will not allow her service dog at work. Katrina Griffith’s service dog happens to be (you guessed it) a Pit Bull. She also suspects that this is the reason why her company will not allow her to bring “Izzy” to work.
Work Place Injustice is Still Commonplace
Ms.Griffith works for Maximus call center at Rochester Tech Park in Rochester, New York.
She admits to suffering from multiple mental health conditions and her service dog, “Izzy B,” helps her to cope and live a normal life.
“She’s not a pet, she’s a service dog, and federal law says she cannot be denied regardless of breed and everything else,” Griffith says.
Discrimination Against Pit Bulls is Not Deterred by Federal Law
Ms. Griffith states that she suffers from anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I need Izzy because she helps keep me grounded because at any moment one of my mental health diagnoses will trigger,” Griffith says.
This is clearly a person who recognizes what her issues are and has taken measures to mitigate their effects on her life. A woman such as this should be commended, not hindered.
Know Your Rights So You Can Stay Ahead of Injustice
People with assistance dogs have a federally protected right to bring their dogs into public areas, places of business, government offices, and anywhere else the public is allowed.
There are a few exceptions, like in operating rooms, burn units, and other hospital areas that must be kept sterile.
Also, the dog must be clean and well behaved, otherwise the person may be asked to have the dog wait outside while conducting their business. For the most part, though, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees unfettered access and equal treatment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Exists to Combat These Situations
The vast majority of the people who train or use Service Dogs understand that the United States federal law provides protection and access for Service Dogs. However, Federal Service Dog law and State Service Dog law are different and can vary greatly depending on which state you reside.
Furthermore, Federal Service Dog law applies all over the country and is the universally accepted standard in the United States.
Whether Federal or State, Your Service Dog Access is Protected
Here is where it can get a little confusing with State Service Dog law. State Service Dog law affords each state the opportunity to add additional requirements or stipulations to the existing federal law. Otherwise, it is generally accepted that whichever law provides the most freedom for a disabled individual with a service dog in any given state is the one that takes precedence.
Is Her Dog’s Breed the Cause of Discrimination?
Ms. Griffith says she put in a request to have Izzy at her job last year in 2017.
“I put in the request September 7th and it’s just going back and forth since then,” Griffith says. “If she was a Chihuahua, or Shih Tzu or a small dog they wouldn’t have done that. I really do believe it’s the fact that she’s a pit bull.”
She says she allowed Maximus representatives to communicate with her mental health counselor. Ms. Griffith also gave them access to her private health records and provided all the documentation proving Izzy was legit.
Case of Not Following Procedure or a Company’s “Stall Tactic?”
After weeks without a response from Maximus, Griffith brought her dog into work without formal approval from the company.
Do you believe she was correct in not waiting? If so, what would your justification be for waiting or not waiting? Meanwhile, the plot thickens, because Maximus has a different tale of events.
Do Employees Owe a Company Time to Meet Demands?
Maximus representatives issued the following statement to their local NBC station WHEC News 10.
“MAXIMUS routinely accommodates service animals within its work environment and the Company makes every effort to support appropriate and reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. In this case, Ms. Griffith brought her dog to work before MAXIMUS had an opportunity to approve her request for reasonable accommodation and secure required property owner approval to make necessary adjustments within the work environment.”
“While MAXIMUS was engaged in dialogue with Ms. Griffith, her treating physician, and the property owner, Ms. Griffith brought her service animal to work without notice or approval. Unfortunately, the dog became aggressive towards other employees and displayed unruly behavior. Several employees expressed significant fear and there was a serious concern for the safety of the staff. At that point, MAXIMUS had no other choice but to ask Ms. Griffith to remove her dog from the workplace.”
Lack of Communication or Attempt to Circumvent the Law?
“MAXIMUS continues to engage in dialogue with Ms. Griffith in order to find a way to accommodate her request while maintaining the safety of all of its employees.”
If we take their statement at face value, then it would seem that they are in fact trying to accommodate Ms. Griffith. However, at this point, it is becoming “she said,” “they said” scenario.
Ms. Griffith Might Have Evidence that Maximus is Being Untruthful
Ms. Griffith says Izzy was not aggressive when she brought her to work in November. She also stated that Izzy stays in a home with her two-year-old son.
“I have statements from people saying she was well-behaved, wasn’t aggressive, and was very calm and she listened well,” Griffith says.
This entire ordeal stretches over a six month period, with no resolution in sight. Ms. Griffith is now concerned that this is affecting her job performance. She fears that this will ultimately cost her a much-needed job.
Are You Believing the Company’s Reason for Not Reaching a Resolution Soon?
“I’m more worried about my job and how I’m going to provide for my family,” Griffith says.
Maximus has not provided a reason for the delay in their accommodations for Ms. Griffith and Izzy at this time. So, I took the liberty of researching New York State law in regards to Service Dogs and here are my findings.
Federal Law and State Law Sides with Ms. Griffith
Under New York law and the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service dogs to all “public accommodations,” such as restaurants, museums, hotels, and more. These laws also require those who operate public and private transportation (such as taxis) to allow service animals.
New York law and the ADA differ in some ways. However, public accommodations in New York must comply with both sets of laws. This affords their patrons the right to rely on whichever law provides the most protections.
Why the Delay?
I have not seen any reason for the delay, at least not a legal reason anyway. This seems more of a personal preference than a safety concern.
It also appears to be discriminatory in nature. So what is your take on the matter? Let us know in the post. Also, let us know if you have experienced a similar situation of your own.