Nov 10, 2022
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Considering the Paw-ssibility of Dogs in the Workplace

Dogs in the Workplace Midsection of young businessman with dog sitting at the desk indoors in office, using computer.

    Considering the Paw-ssibility of Dogs in the Workplace

    Not every work environment is well-suited to having four-legged companions underfoot but, when it’s handled correctly, the decision to welcome dogs in the workplace can help foster improved employee satisfaction and retention, without unreasonably increasing your liability exposure.  Here’s what our insurance experts suggest considering before allowing fury friends into the workplace.

     

    Dogs in the Workplace

    With today’s challenges in hiring and retaining quality employees and reintegrating staff back into the workplace, increasing numbers of employers are considering allowing staff members to bring their dogs to work with them.

    While many standard Commercial General Liability policies don’t automatically exclude coverage for bodily injury caused by an animal, if you’re thinking about allowing dogs in the workplace, there are several factors to consider:

     

    Check your lease

    Many lease agreements prohibit animals on the premises. Even if your lease allows you to have animals, keep in mind that many policies won’t provide coverage if the dog(s) cause damage to the property.

     

    Be mindful of others

    Consider the comfortability of others and temperament of your pet! Many people are uncomfortable around animals they do not know. By accommodating one employee’s wish to bring a beloved pet to work, you may be creating a hardship for other employees.

    In addition, allergy to animals may be a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  If you fail to accommodate the needs of an employee with animal allergies, you may be setting yourself up for a worker’s compensation claim, or potentially even an ADA claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

    Therefore, it’s best to have open communication with anyone who might be affected by a change in your company policy. Be sure you know your workplace and staff before making such a decision.

     

    Consider your customers

    If your business enjoys a lot of visitors, the issues surrounding dogs in the workplace become even more complicated.

    Having your employees’ dogs already in the workplace will undoubtedly encourage some customers to bring in their own pets, possibly leading to some unpleasant confrontations between Fido and Spot. And, of course, more people means more risk of someone being bitten or experiencing an allergic reaction.

    You can minimize these risks by keeping employees’ dogs out of areas in which customers are present, and by not allowing your customers to let their dogs run loose.

     

    Protect yourself

    While many Commercial General Liability policies will provide coverage for the employer if they are brought into a suit due to an employee’s dog biting someone (check your policy for specifics), employers still might want to consider having employees sign an indemnification agreement prior to bringing a pet into the workplace.

    Having such agreements in place helps ensure that the employee understands the potential hazards and accepts responsibility for ensuring that the animal won’t pose a threat to coworkers or clients.

     

    Have a plan

    Even with the proper insurance and indemnification agreements in place, employers still have a duty to provide a hazard-free workplace.

    With that in mind, develop a pet policy that establishes standards for good canine behavior, outlines when and under what circumstances a dog may be brought to work, and provides a mechanism for you to revoke an employee’s pet privileges as necessary.

    Of course, we always recommend that you review your agreements and plans with legal counsel before proceeding with implementation.

     

    Paws for thought: Dogs in the Workplace

    Not every work environment is well-suited to having four-legged companions underfoot, and it’s better to consider all the potential ramifications of having a dog-friendly workplace before joining the trend.

    However, when it’s handled correctly, the decision to welcome dogs into the workplace can help foster improved employee satisfaction and retention, without unreasonably increasing your liability exposure.

    What "covered" should feel like.

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