Dogs in the workplace

Should dogs be allowed in the workplace? Attorneys Ben Schwartz and Rob Collins answer the question, “what do I need to do before I let my employee bring their dog to work?”

Should dogs be allowed in the workplace?

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz and I’m Attorney Rob Collins,

Ben: Today I have asked Rob to come join us. Rob handles a large volume of dog bite personal injury cases with the law firm of Schwartz & Schwartz. I have asked Rob to come do a video for us to answer a question. Here is the question, “If I am a business owner, an employer, and I have customers coming in but my employee wants to bring their dog into the workplace, what do I need to do before I let my employee bring their dog to work?”

Rob: As the owner, manager, or whoever is in charge, you really need to be aware of the potential liabilities of bringing a dog into work. If the dog injures somebody who works there, they are going to have a workers’ compensation claim and your rates may go up. The real big concern is going to be if a customer, a delivery person, the mailman, whoever, who does not actually work there, comes onto the property, or even not on the property, near the property and the dog injures that person, they are going to have a claim against the dog owner. If the business agreed to have that dog there, then there is probably going to be a claim against the business as well. That is basically going to be on a negligence basis and with that understanding in place, the business needs to take some precautions.

Ben: Not to interrupt you, but I am going to interrupt you.

Rob: Okay.

Ben: If you are an owner of a business and you have an employee that wants to bring their dog in, you realize you could end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit and that is just the way it is. I am not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing, but you realize that as the owner of the business that this creates a risk. What I want to ask you is, if I am the owner of a store and I have got customers coming in, my employee is going to bring her golden retriever in, it is a very docile & calm dog, we expect it is going to lay down behind the counter all day and be a good dog. As the owner of the store, I know that dog could bite somebody or could get excited and knock somebody down.

Rob: It could be a tripping hazard for all that matters, it is a dog.

Ben: Right, you never know what is going to happen. I am concerned. I want my employee to be happy and I like the dog. I am happy to have the dog in the store, but I know that there is a potential that something could go wrong and I could get sued. What should I do to insulate myself from that lawsuit?

Rob: I think you need to have some sort of process in place, not just anybody can bring their dog in willy nilly. I think you need to do some sort background check on the dog and of course we are lawyers, so everything should be done in writing or documented in some way so you can prove you actually did these things, if possible. I think you would want to ask the owner about any prior aggressive actions, bites, anything like that. You definitely want to get a copy of the rabies shots and keep that on file. If the dog has ever been to a doggie daycare type of place, then it has probably gone through a temperament testing. If you can get some proof that the dog passed the temperament test, I think at that point you have done as good a job as necessary to protect the general public and customers from having a dangerous dog on your property. You definitely still need to carry some liability insurance, that is just common sense for any business that is going to have people coming in and out. I think at that point you have done everything that is reasonable to make sure that you do not have any dangerous dogs on the property.

Ben: Good advice. Thanks, Rob. I appreciate you coming on and talking about this area of personal injury litigation. I am Attorney Ben Schwartz and this is Attorney Rob Collins. If you have questions that you would like answered on the air, in video format on the internet, send me an e-mail below. Thanks for watching!

Should dogs be allowed in the workplace?

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