OGA Did You Know is a new monthly series that will feature answers to some of our members most frequently-asked-questions. These will be archived on our website for future reference. Please contact OGA President, Kristin Mullins should you have questions or need additional information.
Service Animals – Sent October 28, 2015:
Employers encounter a wide variety of different issues and experiences on a day to day basis in their stores. While you may not be able to necessarily predict what might happen, employers should educate themselves and their employees to adequately prepare for each situation. One emerging issue business owners are experiencing today is with respect to service animals.
Service animals are a federally regulated entity that falls under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) justification. In 2010 (and implemented in March of 2011) the DOJ provided guidance on service animals which are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are specifically defined as only dogs and are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”
The question arises on how business owners are to properly interact with service animals and their owners as well as fellow customers. First, business owners should be mindful that the dog is not required to wear a vest and it is illegal to ask the owner to present a form or a type of certification that the animal is indeed a service animal. However, there are specific questions the business owner can ask: “(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform” – but the word of the owner of the service animal must be accepted. Employers and employees cannot ask about the individuals disability or demand the service animal perform a specific task. In an instance where the service animal starts eating food off the ground or begins disrupting the safety of the store, then the animal itself can be removed – not the owner.
For more information on service animals and the specific rules, we recommend reading the ADA guidelines on the issue.
E-Cigarettes, Sent September 22, 2015:
E-cigarettes have become more and more prevalent since their introduction into the market in the early 2000s. According to researchers from the CDC and Georgia State University, from 2010 to 2013, awareness of e-cigarettes grew to 80% and the use of e-cigarettes more than doubled among US adults during that time. With any new emerging product comes questions, and one that is top of mind for many employers is the use of e-cigarettes in public and what the law says.
Ohio, like most states, has a smoke-free workplace law in place prohibiting the use of smoking. However, to date, e-cigarettes are not included in this ban because the law, found in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3794.01 defines smoking as the burning of tobacco or any other plant material. However, the law does explicitly state the ORC 3794 does not prohibit enactment of stricter policies or regulations, therefore it is left to each private business to determine its own policies. Attached is a fact sheet from the National Business Group that provides some additional guidance and helpful suggestions on e-cigarettes policies in the workplace. Please contact Kristin Mullins for any additional guidance on this subject or any other government affairs questions.