Friday is "Take Your Dog to Work Day," a yearly event that encourages businesses to welcome pets into their offices.
According to USA Today, only 12 percent of dog owners report being able to bring their dog to work, though almost half say they would if they could. Some big-name companies -- including Amazon, Procter & Gamble, and Google -- have even begun allowing pets at the office year-round.
But whether you let the dogs in just once a year, or on a regular basis, here are three legal tips to keep in mind when it comes to letting your employees dog it at work:
- Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult with an experienced business attorney about your options.
- Every day is "Take Your Service Dog to Work Day." Even if you generally don't allow employees to bring in their pets, allowing an employee with a disability to bring his or her service dog to work should be a no-brainer. Just like customers, employees with disabilities may have the right to have a service dog accompany them to work, as long as the dog doesn't pose a danger to customers. Having a blanket "no dogs" policy that applies to service dogs can potentially open you up to liability for discrimination.
- Employees' dogs can come back to bite you in court. Although having dogs at work may boost employee morale, it can also boost the odds of a personal injury suit if another employee or a customer gets bitten. Although the dog isn't yours, allowing your employee to have it at work may make you liable for any injuries it causes through vicarious liability or premises liability.
- Create and enforce a pets policy. Before allowing pets in the office, it may be wise to draft and have employees sign-off on a written pets policy laying out the rules for bringing a pet to work. But a written business policy isn't worth the paper it's written on if it's not uniformly enforced. Once you make the rules, remember to keep them.
Take Your Dog to Work Day isn't for every business (especially if you or some of your workers suffer from dog allergies), but done right, it can be a great way to keep your employees happy. And though dogs are officially man's best friend, a dog-friendly boss is a close second.
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