Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sick Leave for Your Pet?

As we have noted, laws requiring employers to provide paid time off, for sickness or injury, or to care for a sick or injured family member, or for maternity/paternity leave, have proliferated in recent years. However, to the chagrin of many pet owners no doubt, I have yet to come across a law providing employees with paid time off to care for a sick or injured pet. Until now.

I recently came across a sick leave ordinance passed in June 2015 by the Emeryville, CA city council that requires employers to give employees time off to care for “a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog.” So guide dogs, service dogs, and signal dogs are not exactly pets in the same way as your dog fluffy may be, but it is still the first instance I have come across paid leave laws permitting time off to be taken for the care of an animal.

I suppose this provision makes some sense. If an employee cannot function without a service dog, then that employee probably cannot do his or her job. After all, employers may be required to permit service animals into their workplace, as I discussed in a past blog post. The ordinance also seeks to prevent abuse of this provision by defining these terms in the same way as they are defined in the California Disabled Persons Act. So, an employee probably could not argue that this law allows him or her to receive paid time off for taking their poodle to the vet.

It will be interesting to see if this idea gains any traction. This is the first that I have heard of it, but with paid sick leave laws being passed in more places, perhaps this makes its way into one of those? Let me know your thoughts about paid time off to care for animals.