Denying the use of an employee’s service dog cost this small business $22,730

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

When it comes to dogs, the owners of a respected Washington state trucking firm found that they aren’t so “lucky.”

Headquartered in Yakima, Wash., Haney Truck Line provides professional trucking services to all points in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, California, Nevada, British Columbia and Alberta, according to its website, and has been in business for decades.

Apparently, management ran into a challenge when an employee with diabetes asked to bring her service dog, named Lucky, with her to work. Lucky has very special powers – he can monitor smells in the air for a specific scent coming from his owner and can detect rapidly dropping or low blood-sugar levels. He’s also trained to alert the owner by pawing or nudging.

Haney’s management allegedly denied the employee’s request. The employee took the matter to the state’s Human Rights Commission. In a preliminary court ruling last week, a state judge found in favor of the employee and awarded her $22,730 in damages.

“The Washington law against discrimination contains clear protections for employees who use trained service animals,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement reported by a local news station. “Employers must allow service animals so employees may properly and safely perform their jobs.”

The lesson? It’s not just Washington State that has laws protecting disabled employees. Before declining a request in this day and age, it’s best to consult an attorney who specializes in labor-related matters, particularly when it comes to state laws.

Both parties have the chance to comment before Feb. 13 and there will be a final decision 30 days after that.


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