how much should we compromise for a dog-phobic coworker in a dog-friendly office?

A reader writes:

We’ve recently moved into a new office space, which is dog-friendly. This is great news for many of my coworkers, who are able to avoid costly sitters and walkers (we’re already allowed to work from home a few days per week, so bringing dogs in the other couple of days can do away with these costs entirely).

However, one of my colleagues (let’s call her Jane) is really dog-phobic. Today another colleague (Lucille) brought her dog in for the first time. I warned her that Jane was in the office so Lucille stayed out in the communal kitchen area with the dog. It didn’t matter; knowing that a dog was on the floor was enough to bring Jane to the verge of tears. She didn’t complain – she’s aware we’re allowed dogs in the office and that Lucille hasn’t done anything wrong – but she was visibly upset and eventually had to move to another floor to work. When everybody, including Lucille and the dog, moved to that floor for Friday drinks (another perk of the office) Jane left.

A few people have suggested we agree as an office either not to bring dogs in, or (more likely) to check Jane’s calendar and only bring dogs in on days when she is working remotely, which is fairly regularly. This seems reasonable, but the whole office is co-working space and we’re not going to be able to police people who work for other companies taking advantage of the dog-friendly policy.

I know dog-friendly offices are a relatively new perk, and that they have their critics. I was just wondering what would be considered an acceptable level of compromise to ask of employees in order to accommodate Jane and her phobia?

The basic principle is that people’s ability to do their jobs trumps people’s desire to bring dogs to work.

If you can do both, great. But when they’re in conflict, people’s ability to do their jobs wins out. That’s true whether we’re talking about phobias, or allergies, or inability to focus because of barking.

So if you’re going to let people bring dogs to work, you have to either have ways to accommodate people who can’t be around them or be prepared that at some point you might need to end the practice.

If your office is big enough and logistics allow for this, one option is to have a dog-free space people can work in, have meetings in, etc. Another option is to let people who can’t be around dogs work from home, but (a) that won’t work for every job and (b) if you do that, you have to ensure they’re not professionally disadvantaged because of it (not cut out of projects, etc.).

But if you can’t do either of those things, then you need to be prepared to stop allowing dogs at whatever point someone is hired who can’t be around them … and you need to set it up originally in a way where that person won’t be blamed for others losing the perk. (In some offices, that will mean you’d be better off not ever allowing it in the first place.)

Your situation is more complicated because you’re in a co-working space where you can’t control what people outside your company are doing. But if your company ever hires someone with, say, a severe dog allergy (or if Jane’s phobia rises to the level of being protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which it might), then it legally has to accommodate those hires. That means you’d need to work with the co-working space to see if you can set aside some space there as dog-free, or let the person work from home if that’s practical. You might even choose to move out of the co-working space to one where you have more control. But your company can’t just throw up its hands and say “oh, well, co-working, nothing we can do.” There’s no exception in the ADA for co-working spaces; you still have to engage in an interactive process with the employee and try to find an accommodation.

The pushback on this topic is often, “Well, people who don’t want to be around dogs shouldn’t take a job in a dog-friendly office.” But people shouldn’t have to disqualify themselves from jobs because of disabilities that have nothing to do with their ability to perform the work. They might choose to select out anyway, because they might not want to take on the potential burden of people seeing them as the reason they lost their dogs-at-work perk. But I’d argue they’re not under any obligation to do that. At the same time, we can also recognize that it does suck to have an important perk taken away (especially if the perk was a reason you took the job in the first place). Both of those can be simultaneously true. But ultimately the person trumps the perk — definitely legally and, I’d argue, ethically too.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 790 comments… read them below }

  1. not a dr*

    Because this is a co-working space a dog free floor or dof free office seems like the only solution. You can not get rid of dogs from this space entirely, as they are there for other reasons.

    In this case, I feel like Alison’s advice was more for other readers, and not for the Op, as Op’s reality means saying “no dogs” isn’t an option. Other companies do not have to get rid of their dogs because one of your employees has a phobia.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No! This office needs to accommodate disabilities regardless. So that means they either need to provide some dog-free space in part of the building (maybe doable, depending on how the co-working space is set up), let this person work from home if that’s practical, or move out of the co-working space to one where they can have some dog space and some dog-free space (or end the perk in that new building if they choose to). They can’t just throw up their hands and say “oh, well, co-working space, nothing we can do.” There’s no exception in the ADA for co-working spaces.

        1. not a dr*

          Allison, what if one of the tenants of the co-working space was a dog trainer or something where this was a requirement of the job? Like my co-working space the anchor tenant is a gym. What if that gym was a pet food store, etc etc. So it was a real requirement to have dogs in the space?

          It is different where I live clearly, but I am wondering about the conflicts of two organizations like that.

          1. Amber T*

            In the US, a business has to accommodate an employee’s disability within reason and not detrimental to the company. So implementing a no-dogs policy for a typical office job is reasonable and not detrimental to the company, where as not allowing dogs in a pet training facility, vet office, maybe pet store, would be detrimental. (Not a lawyer and this is a high level view, so I’m sure arguments could be made from both sides.)

            Likewise, if someone in the office has a service dog, they can’t disallow that employee to use their dog. An accommodation for that would be working on different floors, etc.

          2. WellRed*

            Is that really a coworking space, though? I don’t think there are offices (desks and computers) tucked into the corner of a gym or retail space. Coworking spaces are typically office space.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              Usually it would be a separate area of the building closed of from the gym proper but yes.

            2. Mimi Me*

              There’s a building near my home that has shared office space – each company has it’s own room with closing door but the kitchen / bathroom facilities are shared. One of the businesses is an animal rehab facility. There are always dogs on the premises. My 14 year old daughter has a severe dog phobia (she actually started working with a therapist yesterday) and she takes a language class in the building. I had to do research to determine when the rehab closed so I could schedule her class around it.
              Jane has my sympathy. She’s in a rough place because she has a job she may enjoy but a workplace that scares her. Apparently it’s not always the sight of a dog that does it too. My daughter was telling me yesterday that hearing things like someone with jingling keys or bracelets on can send her into a full blown panic, even in spaces where there aren’t dogs (like her school), because they sound like the charms that are on dog collars. Those little things are things that those of us not afflicted don’t realize.

              1. Beth*

                Your daughter has my deepest sympathy! I was severely dog-phobic from the age of 8 till the age of 17. Even though I was able to mitigate the phobia, it’s still an issue at times.

                In addition to the phobia itself, your daughter is going to face a lot of crap from people who love dogs and won’t want to believe that her phobia is real. I’m glad she has your support! For what it’s worth, she has mine as well.

              2. Cyndy*

                This sounds like more than a dog phobia problem. I am glad that your daughter is getting help.

                I am wondering at what point a phobia (not an allergy) becomes an ADA issue. Anyone? Otherwise, I would think that if you want to work for a company that allows dogs in the workplace, you would have to take that into consideration.

                1. fposte*

                  That sounds pretty common for a phobia, actually–it does bleed onto things associated with the phobic event.

                  The ADA doesn’t provide you with a neat way to determine in advance what for sure it covers and what for sure it doesn’t. The relevant language in it would be a condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and work is included as a major life activity. Would being unable to attend a meeting where a dog was present count as a “substantial” limitation? I think we’d need to know more about the law and relevant court decisions to even hazard a guess, and we could still be wrong. But it’s close enough that I wouldn’t advise the OP to ignore Jane (not that she is! It sounds like her office is actually being very thoughtful here) without consulting with a lawyer first.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  Since a phobia falls under the mental health umbrella, I think it wold need to be accommodated like any other mental health issues.

                  Unless dogs are integral to the work being done, then people need to take priority over domestic pets.

              3. Rachael*

                I agree completely with this. I’m not dog phobic, but I have a fear of loose dogs and just hearing a jingling of any chain while I’m out makes me freeze and frantically look around for a loose dog. I know that in the office the dogs aren’t “loose” and I wouldn’t have such a reaction, but I do feel for the coworker with the dog phobia. Perks should be given to employees as a benefit. Once the perk starts having a negative impact then the perk is no longer a perk. (Now the word perk has lost its meaning).

                In this case humans should be more important than dogs and accommodations should be made to make sure that the coworker can work in the environment.

              4. Smol Book Wizard*

                Best wishes to your kid as well. I spent a while in pretty nasty dog-phobia around strange/unpredictable dogs – frustratingly enough I still liked the ones that were calm and quiet, but yes, even the sound of tags on collar could set me off, because I never knew what kind of situation I would be getting into around the corner of the trail. There were some years in my young life where half my friends had to keep their dogs locked away in back rooms before I would agree to come to their houses, and even then I would click into fight-or-flight mode if I heard something like a door opening or claws on the floor.
                FWIW – absolutely you and your daughter are completely free to ignore this – what helped me a lot was finding a small local dog rescue whose foster-keeper was a *wonderful* woman, a therapist of some sort IIRC, who understood my situation and did an excellent job of grading the challenge level of dog interaction until I slowly worked out my panic reactions. If your daughter feels ready for it at some point, I would recommend getting in touch with some similar programs and seeing who might be a good resource. I was attacked by a dog several years ago and had to re-tread a lot of ground again, once more with the help of local animal rescue exposure. I found it a good way to interact with dogs mediated by as much distance, noise control, and cage separation as needed.
                I agree it is tough to be afraid of dogs when most of the world sees them as mainly cute or funny. There is a time when a dog-friendly business would have terrified me as well.

            3. Just Play A Doctor On TV*

              I work for a coworking space. It’s a large building and there is a retail space on the first floor. There are doors to that space from inside the coworking building and there’s also a coffee shop in the lobby area that is dog friendly. If the OP rented office space within the building, maybe they could use Allison’s advice and not allow dogs into the office. Employees with dogs could still work at a hot desk nearby. The tough part would be bathrooms and kitchens. None of our offices have kitchens or bathrooms within their space, they are all shared. I bring my dog into the bathroom when I go because it is part of the coworking space rules that dogs must always be supervised on a leash (If I’m sitting and working with a friend or colleague, I’ll ask them to hold her, but it’s not always convenient). Same with our kitchen areas.

              If someone came to us with a request to make, say, one of the bathrooms dog-free, I don’t think we would because we wouldn’t want to be entangled in being responsible for enforcement. I don’t even know if it would help Jane because she might still run into someone with a dog walking by within the space on the way to the bathroom. I would imagine that the company owners might symbolically make a concession for ADA (like we’ll keep the actual office where Jane works dog free) but it likely would still stress Jane out because she might run into a dog the second she leaves the office, even to go to the bathroom.

              1. Kaitlyn*

                I’m surprised dogs are allowed in the kitchen areas at all, to be honest. Our local co-working kitchen spaces are inspected by public health, and dogs there would be a no-go. Those floors are de-facto dogless in an otherwise dog-accepting building.

              2. MayLou*

                I find the whole idea of dog-friendly offices baffling (even if my dog weren’t far too anxious about people to come to an office with me, I there were other dogs there he’d be a huge distraction playing with them!) but quite apart from that, I think this would be a reasonable compromise. There’s always the risk that Jane would see a dog on her way into a private dog-free office, or one would walk past the window. The company can’t be responsible for that, but they can control their own space and policies.

                1. Unacademic*

                  I’m not sure it would be so reasonable if Jane wasn’t able to use the bathrooms or kitchen. Imagine if it were a mobility issue and the office didn’t provide access to a handicapped bathroom, or someone had a fragrance allergy and they didn’t change the bathroom soaps or dish detergent to be fragrance free.

            4. Interplanet Janet*

              I work in a building that is dog friendly. Our office allows dogs at work, but even if we didn’t, there would be people coming and going with dogs. One of the businesses in the building (which is one floor, and the communal hallway is where access to the restrooms is, plus the woman in OP’s letter is so phobic that she can’t work with dogs on the same floor?) is an animal dermatologist, so there would be no removing dogs from the space. My company has invested significant expense in tenant improvements to our office space so we definitely could not just pick up and go elsewhere.

              I can see accommodating a phobia to a point, but surely companies are allowed some limits? What if I said I couldn’t focus properly because I have a shark phobia and my company’s building is on the waterfront? What if I said the idea that there are dogs loose anywhere in the city makes me crumble? I realize the last example is ludicrous, but it’s a spectrum, right, both for the phobia and for the presence of dogs. At some point, the lines cross and it’s no longer reasonable to accommodate someone? I think maybe “coworking dog-friendly space” and “I’m too terrified to be on the same floor of a building with a dog” passes the line where it’s no longer reasonable to accommodate, though obviously that’s just my opinion.

              1. Kaitlyn*

                That’s actually exactly why they should try to accommodate it. That level of phobia is genuine and shrugging it off as “oh, well, that seems over the top” is not very nice. I have a spider phobia, and while I know and accept that spiders are part of the landscape and I might encounter one from time to time in my life, I would never accept a job in an building with, like, a tarantula farm (ACTUAL HORROR SHIVERS RN).

                1. Meryl*

                  Arachnophobe here too! Was just thinking to myself “would I take a job at the Museum of Natural History” if I had to pass by the spider exhibit every day? But tarantula farm? OMG even typing those words…!

                2. Cyndy*

                  Well yeah, but that’s the point: don’t accept the job. The company policy was there at the start. Assuming Jane was aware of the situation upon accepting the job, it seems rather arrogant to me for her to expect the policy to change. Does the ADA address phobias? Seems over the top to me.

                3. fposte*

                  @Cyndy–I can understand the impulse to say “Well, don’t apply,” but kids have to be fed and rent has to be paid. And I’m curious–do you think you’d say the same to somebody who uses a wheelchair applying to an office with no usable ramp?

                4. Lord Gouldian Finch*

                  Well that’s why the words “reasonable accomodation” are what is required. If you worked at the national history museum a reasonable accomodation might be “you don’t need to work in the spiders exhibit” or even “You can come in a side door so you don’t go past the spiders” but “remove the spiders exhibit” wouldn’t be reasonable.

                  Assuming this office doesn’t actually work with dogs, removing the dog-permissiveness might well be reasonable (that IS getting into the legal issues so I won’t discuss that part).

                5. TechWorker*

                  Cyndy from my read the company policy was *not* there at the start, Jane was an existing employee and the office moved.

                6. Kendra*

                  I’m a huge arachnophobe, too, and it pops up in the weirdest places. I’m a librarian, and I once had to catalog a stack of children’s nonfiction books about animals. It was going great (I’m an animal lover otherwise), until I picked up a book and the front cover of the one underneath it was a 40-inch tall close-up of a tarantula’s face. I actually screamed a little (only time I’ve ever done that at work!), dropped the other book back on top of it, and had to go get a cup of tea to calm down.

                  I felt like an idiot, because logically I know nothing about that book could possibly have done me any harm, but there was no way on earth I could have looked at it long enough to do my job. (Fortunately for me, one of my coworkers was able to read off the information I needed to catalog it, and I was able to label it and put the dust jacket cover on with my eyes closed – yes, seriously).

                  So, yeah, even though I’m a dog lover and would personally be happy to work around them, I have TOTAL sympathy for someone with a full-on dog phobia being unable to work in that environment. Your logical brain has no say in it, and the harmlessness, friendliness, or level of training of the dog has nothing to do with it, either; it’s all about that panicked fight-or-flight response, that takes over before any of your logic circuits can engage.

                7. professor*

                  but how can it be considered a “reasonable accommodation” for the company to have to move office to a new building? That seems to be too much…

              2. Nic*

                The “reasonable accommodations line” is three-fold:

                1) is the subject of the phobia an actual part of the job (answer: no, this is not a job where the dogs are fundamental to getting the job done, because we’re not talking about a veterinary office, a dog groomers or a pet dermatologist!),

                2) can the subject of the phobia be removed from the proximity without tanking the business/wracking up massive costs (answer: yes, because we’re not talking about someone near a waterfront being scared of water and needing to…dam up the tide while it’s out; we’re talking about a building with several businesses that are not pet-related in any way, and dogs, which are mobile and can be taken elsewhere!), and

                3) is this phobia too extreme to manage (answer: no, because she’s not complaining that dogs might be somewhere in the city, she’s fearful about the dogs she knows are close and might come into contact with if the owners fail to manage them correctly).

                So yeah, this counts as something which absolutely can be fixed by disability accommodations and people giving up a nonessential perk that is harming a coworker’s mental health, and should not under any circumstances be framed as the phobic worker being too much for anyone to reasonably cope with!

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  Doesn’t the person have to be diagnosed and what do you do about the other companies? Company A doesn’t have the right to tell companies b and c what they can or can’t do with their companies. That’s way past reasonable accommodations.

                2. professor*

                  except the company has no control over what the other companies in the building do! I don’t see how this gets fixed reasonably….

            5. JKP*

              Not necessarily. I work in a shared coworking space for 5+ years, and I have seen a variety of different kinds of companies come through: a spa/massage place, a teeth whitening service, a personal trainer/gym, vaccine clinic, many of these retail business with outside customers, but sharing their office space along with all the typical office/computer type companies working there too.

              Our building is dog-free, but if it was a dog-friendly building I can see how it could be a good setup for a small pet business like a dog trainer or something.

              1. GrumpyMeowth*

                This doesn’t sound like what “co-working spaces” means where I live (Silicon Valley). It sounds more like a multi-tenant office/retail building.

                Maybe OP can clarify which model fits her situation better?

                For example, the co-working chain WeWork has a combination of spaces that are like employee lounges, open office plans, cubicles, and conference rooms (all hot-desked so it’s like finding a study spot at the library rather than having an office) as well as offices they rent to specific people or companies. (I am not promoting them, but I’m familiar with them by visiting people there. I’m actually miffed that they are gentrifying older buildings and jacking up the rents so the former tenants are priced out, but that’s OT.)

                Back to the actual discussion on the letter: A co-working facility of the model used by WeWork absolutely wouldn’t have ANY retail businesses/clinics. It’s primarily for “tech” startups and other companies where most of the workers just need a laptop computer and a messenger bag. But part of the appeal of this kind of co-working space is that people get all kinds of perks to make working 80-hour weeks bearable, and I can see how “dog-friendly” would be something they’d include along with “free kombucha on tap” and “foosball table” and “private rooftop park.”

                But because retail just isn’t one of the permissible uses (because the traffic would interrupt people trying to write code or design websites or whatever) there’s no way anyone would be operating a dog training/grooming/treats business. Having dogs in the building would be a perk for tenants, not an intrinsic part of the business.

                And perks can be changed over time! I remember the first time I visited WeWork, they had free beer on tap. The next time, a year later, it was kombucha. I don’t know if this was because of a specific problem with having free alcohol (or multiple problems) or if tenants were responsible enough about not drinking on the job that the beer was underutilized. It’s reasonable to assume that the perk of bringing your dog to work could be changed, without singling out Jane as the reason.

          3. Mockingjay*

            I haven’t researched this, but I expect there are OSHA or local codes regulating businesses that specifically cater to animals. Coworking spaces might just say, “sure, bring your dog in” without thinking about the fine details.

            At one former job (office environment), an employee volunteered as a trainer for Wounded Warrior service dogs. She asked permission to be able to bring in a dog for socialization and training in a work environment. Corporate took weeks to make a decision while they checked with their lawyer and insurer regarding liability. It was a small business and would not have been able to afford a lawsuit with damages. (Ultimately they said yes. It was one animal at a time, in designated areas, and the trainer gave us all specific instructions on how to interact (or not) with the animal. Worked very well.)

            1. fposte*

              Code might exist in big cities, but I think in most of the country it’s just about lawyers and landlords and what they’re prepared to permit.

              1. Mockingjay*

                Does anyone here at AAM work with business insurers? I am curious as to what their take would be regarding liability.

                Quick online search shows that OSHA regulates pet stores and trainers, but “OSHA has no standards prohibiting pets in the workplace.” Link posted in reply.

                1. fposte*

                  Ooh, an OSHA link! You know I love me some link–thanks.

                  It’s a good question, on the business insurance. Obviously there are plenty of bookstore cats and junkyard dogs, but there are also plenty of bodega cats, which are almost certainly illegal because of the food component, so it’s risky to extrapolate. I think landlords probably cover themselves pretty thoroughly in leases so you’re right that it would be business insurance that would matter.

                2. Just Play A Doctor On TV*

                  I can’t believe no one has brought up Amazon yet. I think they employ like 50,000 people and are all dog friendly. I read an article about how a few people with allergies/dislike of dogs were basically sent of to a far corner of a far building and many quit. Kindof sad.

          4. Bibliovore*

            That actually raises a tangential question: What are the legal requirements when the business in question, not just another one in a co-working space, works with animals or something else that triggers someone’s allergies or phobias — say, a veterinary office or pet-grooming service, or a factory that makes scented products or fake spiders or whatever? I would think most people who’d be triggered by inherent factors of a business wouldn’t apply to work there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sometimes happens.

            (I knew someone who was born into a dairy-farming family but was allergic to cows. She got most of the indoor chores.)

            1. Bibliovore*

              Oops, never mind; I missed that Amber answered this separately earlier. Sorry!

          5. Batman*

            Coworking spaces in the US aren’t like that though. They’re more like coffee shops that don’t sell food. Even if there’s a pet store or dog trainer physically attached to the building, they’d be in a physically separate area, not in the coworking area.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not clear if Jane’s phobia is a disability within the meaning of the ADA. It may be (it certainly seems disruptive to major life activities), but this may be a situation where the ADA isn’t squarely on point.

        That said, I think the principle you laid out—that people’s ability to do their job trumps a person’s need to bring a dog that is not part of the dog-bringer’s ADA accommodation—is really helpful general guidance. Ultimately the compromise may be having a dog-free floor or moving out of the coworking space, but you’re right that the employer still has a responsibility to the employee being burdened or impeded from doing their job.

        1. avocado*

          While I sympathize with the dog-phobic worker, moving an entire office to accommodate a worker with a dog phobia does not seem like a “reasonable” accommodation.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            They just moved offices, so it’s clearly something they can do, depending on lease terms / etc.

            A dog-free space in the same building makes more sense, but it’s not like the company owns the building.

            1. Natalie*

              I think what avocado is referring to is the cost – significant financial expenses is one of the primary things that counts as an “undue burden”, exempting the employer from making an accommodation. The fact that they’ve moved before isn’t relevant, as it wouldn’t make moving again free somehow.

              1. WellRed*

                I don’t understand why they didn’t think through the possible ramifications of moving into the space beforehand. Jane (I can almost guarantee) is not the only one who doesn’t like dogs, whether they realize it or not, and they may very lose out on hires in the future for dog-related reasons.

                1. JoJo*

                  Not liking dogs is a different issue entirely. (I don’t like the bagel selection
                  my company offers, so what.) Plenty of companies are now dog-friendly precisely because they sought it out because many employees value it as a perk.

                2. Lance*

                  It sounds like there are enough people in the company who do have/own dogs to have justified it… and, by extension, I’m sure the company knew such risks going in. Sure, it’s causing a potential issue now, but I don’t think them moving into a dog-friendly space was wrong, as such.

                3. Busy*

                  It was a bad decision. It is a bad decision. It has been proven on this site time and again why it is a bad decision. Rehashing it again doesn’t work. I really am doubting the employees seeing this as a perk thing as well. I think how this plays out is most of the time on of two ways.
                  1. The company was small and everyone loved dogs and got along – but when businesses try to expand, then find it is not a “perk” in the most reasonable way.
                  2. A few people in charge love dogs and think everyone else should love them and be around them at all times. The company tries to grow – finds itself on the wrong side of the ADA/in a lawsuit?losing out on valuable talent etc.

                  I don’t think this is on any way actually a workable perk long term anywhere, and anyone who enjoys this should know it is reasonable certain it will need to end eventually.

                  You can’t have an inclusive environment with a dog friendly office.

                4. fposte*

                  @Busy–except that, as noted elsewhere in the thread, there are plenty of businesses that succeed just fine with dog-friendly policies. I can see plenty of reasons to ban pet dogs, but I don’t think employers are finding allowing dogs to be noncompetitive, so I wouldn’t count on that outcome to effect the limitation you hope.

                5. Cheshire Cat*

                  This. Why didn’t management think about employees with dog phobias or allergies *before* they moved?

                  I mean, I love cats, but I realize that there are a lot of people who wouldn’t want to be around cats all day, every day while at work.

            2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              @Busy–I think i’s a great decision. Do companies that offer childcare on their premises have to end it if an employee is child phobic? What if the child noise affects some people? Should that perk be ended? Would you accept that having a child care on a premise is a bad decision?

              1. Clisby*

                Not at all comparable to what’s described in the OP’s letter. On-premises daycares are separated from workspaces; it’s not like on-premise daycare = parents keep their children in their offices. A true comparison would be an office that had a pet area *completely separate* from the workspace. I haven’t heard of one like that, but I think it could be a great perk with little/no impact on any non-pet owner.

          2. Gymmie*

            But his wasn’t the original space. She was already working there and they moved to a dog space.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s going to depend on the facts of the case. If they’re on, say, a six-month lease (possible in this kind of space), it may be deemed perfectly reasonable.

            I will say that typically when people say “that doesn’t sound like it would be required as a reasonable accommodation,” they’re wrong — generally the law errs toward finding it reasonable unless it’s about significant changes to essential duties or it involves really significant expense. This one may fall in the latter, but again, it’s going to depend on facts we don’t have, and I can imagine situations on both sides of that line.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That said, I do agree that there are a lot of situations where it wouldn’t be reasonable (breaking a lease, incurring large expenses, etc.). But I do think it’s something the company should consider when its lease is up, given that Jane isn’t going to be the last person for whom this comes up.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I talk about this further down — employers have different obligations than building owners. I’m not 100% sure but I’m maybe 90% sure that the building owner does not need to change its dog policies. (It also might depend on jurisdiction.)

            2. Busy*

              I think what will make it even more difficult here for the employer if Jane pushes this is that she was already an employee and they made this decision while she was an employee and did not take care t ensure their changes did not infringe on any ADA policies. I think it would be hard for the employer to make the argument of expense with the facts in this situation.

          4. Jadelyn*

            That’s kind of where I’m coming down. I’m sympathetic, but even the ADA acknowledges that there is a limit on what accommodations need to be made – and I don’t think picking up and moving a whole office is within the definition of “reasonable”.

            1. DivineMissL*

              Yes, but instead of incurring the cost of moving the office, it doesn’t cost anything (besides some folks being upset) to simply remove the dogs from the equation.

              1. Fiberpunk*

                They can’t tell the people who aren’t part of their company that they have to stop bringing their dogs, though. Many of the people who work there probably do so because they can bring dogs, and they have nothing to do with Jane. It’s the company’s problem.

            2. boo bot*

              I actually think the fact that it’s a co-working space might complicate things in this case – with that set-up, companies generally rent furnished office space, and don’t really have a lot of their own infrastructure in place, meaning that the actual move probably wouldn’t be as big a deal as if the company was renting the space directly.

              Obviously they don’t want to break a lease, but even then, if it’s something like We Work with a lot of locations, they may be able to move to a different office owned by the same company under the same contract. It’s a lot to ask, but possibly not as unreasonable as it seems.

            3. Nic*

              I think they’re more likely to find that the past decision of moving the office INTO a dog-friendly space, without consulting the employees (or if they did, ignoring Jane’s need for a work environment without dogs because it was only one person) was a violation of Jane’s right to reasonable accommodation. In that situation, the ADA might consider the extra expense of moving offices a second time to be rectifying the previous mistake, as opposed to “well it’s unreasonable to ask you to make a big change now”. Because when Jane joined the firm, there was no problem.

          5. Batgirl*

            If it doesn’t affect their actual business dealings, it probably is. ‘People won’t like doing this for just one person’ may be true, but the number of people who can’t be around dogs is always subject to change. It’s just one person today; tomorrow who knows? (And ‘just one’ person with a condition is even more at risk of exclusion and discrimination)
            I think this kind of perk always carries the unspoken caveat ‘as long as it doesn’t affect anyone, or affect the business adversely’.

          6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Whether it’s a reasonable accommodation to move office spaces may turn on a bunch of factors, including cost. But cost/inconvenience, alone, do not make moving an unreasonable accommodation.

            Here’s an analogous example from a different context:
            A company rents an office in a building where a pipe bursts, resulting in significant water damage to the structure but not the company’s property/assets. Over time, black mold develops because the clean-up is insufficient or too slow. In many states, the employer cannot keep employees in that space because of the health threat that it poses. Although it’s inconvenient, the employer can demand the building owner provide a relocation in a comparable, mold-free space at a comparable price; waive rent for the period in which repairs are made to allow the company to work out of a temporary space during clean-up; or allow the company to break the lease and move.

            1. Former Employee*

              In that example, someone else would pay the extra expense incurred in the move. In this case, if the company moved, this could end up costing them a substantial amount of money.

              While I am not a lawyer, the term “undue burden” keeps coming up. If it cost the company $40,000 to break their lease and another $10,000 or more for the relocation and that represented enough of a percentage of their income that they had to layoff at least one person to afford the move, would that be an undue burden?

              And then what about the person being laid off? How is that fair?

            1. OscarJeff*

              Assuming the ADA covered the dog phobia in that situation, the employer would have to accommodate both the service dog and the dog phobia. Most likely by having the two employees work on different floors. But the particular way both would be accommodated really depends on the particular facts of the individual situation. The ADA doesn’t provide bright line rules in the sense, “if X, then must do Y to accommodate,” or “if A and B disabilities conflict, A has priority.” What is a reasonable accommodation is always context dependent.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              That’s not reasonable and unenforceable since they rent. Their company may ban dogs–ensuring Jane is hated, btw–but companies b and c don’t have to. And if Jane actually asking for reasonable accommodation/has she shown told her company this?

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Because it’s an iterative process, Jane doesn’t have to request accommodation before her employer begin a conversation with her about accommodation.

        2. Dog person*

          I really love this definition of “compromise” which means one person who hates dogs or golf or whatever shows up and the vast majority who see dogs or golf as a fun perk have to give it up.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s clear that this isn’t about hating dogs. Jane is deeply afraid of dogs, to the point where she can’t even be on the same floor with a dog. We have no idea why she has this phobia, but it’s reasonable to decide that something non-necessary for your business’ performance is not as important as accommodating someone who is.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            I really love when previous letter writers come back to give an update! How did the golf trip work out?

          3. Nic*

            I know, right? It’s almost like being able to carry out the job is more important than nonessential luxuries which aren’t part of the job!

      2. Close Bracket*

        Just how mingled are the other companies? Is this completely open, where employees from Teapots, Inc. sit next to employees from Llamas R Us? Or is this Teapots Inc has its own offices with walls and doors that separate it from Llamas R Us in the next suite but they share bathrooms, lobby, and kitchen areas? I’m assuming the former, if it’s a true co-working space. The letter doesn’t use the term “co-working,” just “office space.” I assume you have more info than we do, but if Jane’s company has walls that separate it from other companies, it’s easy enough to for them to say, “We are aware that the building allows dogs and that employees of other companies bring their dogs in, but we cannot offer this perk in our offices. Please leave your dogs home.”

        1. OP*

          Hey – so the set up is that we hire an office space which only our company’s employees can use – other companies have done the same in designated offices around the building. The kitchens, meeting rooms, bathrooms are communal and all of the offices are situated around large lounge areas that everybody can work from.

          Our office can only seat about 25% of staff based out of our location – the idea being that so many employees work remotely a lot of the time that occupancy rates made paying for a large enough office to seat us all made no financial sense.

          However, we don’t rota people’s in-office days so there does need to be a contingency for when lots of people show up at once, which is a big part of the reason they’ve opted for the co-working space.

          1. WellRed*

            Well, then, there needs to be a way to prioritize who is allowed to be in the company’s own space, which can be kept dog-free, to allow Jane to work there whenever she’s in office.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              Yes – but are they the only office on that floor? If there are other officers on the same floor that won’t help because Jane was upset just being on the same floor as a dog. Plus it sounds like she might be afraid to go in any communal areas..

              1. OP*

                Yep – this was the whole problem. Lucille, when she heard Jane was afraid of dogs opted to stay in the communal space and make sure the dog never went into the office space. That wasn’t enough, and there are other offices on our floor. So far nobody on our floor who works for another company has brought a dog in, but it’s a newish building and low occupancy right now – there’s every chance we’ll see more dogs as occupancy goes up and it’s impossible to reach our office without walking through the communal space so I don’t know what Jane will do then.

          2. Psyche*

            Is it possible for Jane to always use an office with a door and would a door help? That might be the simplest way to accommodate her if it is an option.

          3. a good mouse*

            So Jane was uncomfortable with the dog in the communal kitchen area when it wasn’t even within your company’s office area? Has there been a case of people in other companies on your floor having brought in dogs when Jane was there?

            I’m guessing a lot of it is knowing a dog is there, but I’m wondering if knowing they could come into the office suite is part of it vs if there’s a dog in another office who wouldn’t be allowed to enter.

      3. Simone*

        When you say “the office,” you mean that the company that owns the co-working space and leases it out to these various businesses has an obligation to comply with the ADA, correct? In addition to the all the businesses that lease the space having their own obligation to comply with the ADA?

        1. No Touchy My Lunchy*

          That’s incorrect. The LW’s employer has a requirement to provide reasonable accommodations for Jane if Jane’s fear rises to the level of being an ADA-acceptable disability. The company who owns the space (aka the landlord) does not have the same requirement. The landlord does have other obligations under ADA, such as making the building handicapped accessible. But the landlord is not responsible for making a reasonable accommodation to ensure that an disabled employee (in this case, potentially Jane) can continue working.

      4. Observer*

        I’m not sure you are right about this. The law requires “REASONABLE accommodation.” Moving out of the space may not be so reasonable. Not because of the dogs, but because of the costs of moving. Obviously that’s not always going to be an issue, but sometimes the costs can be very significant.

      5. Viktoria*

        I feel like this is mischaracterizing the ADA in a way that might be confusing for readers. The employer needs to provide only “reasonable accommodations” and courts have sometimes been pretty limited about what they consider reasonable. I have no idea if moving offices would be considered reasonable or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s not, especially if it’s expensive

        (I understand that’s not the only option you listed, but the way you wrote this suggests that the employer must find a way to accommodate. No- only if they can settle on a *reasonable* accommodation)

        And that’s all assuming that the disability falls within the ADA. Morally the company should definitely figure out a way to accommodate Jane but I think this is overstating the power of the ADA.

      6. ag47*

        I feel fairly confident that the company would not be required to move office spaces under the ADA (that accommodation would be an undue hardship). The general point still stands.

      7. wondHRland*

        part of the ADA references that you don’t have to accommodate if it’s an undue hardship on the employer (a very difficult hill to climb, admittedly), but would the expense of breaking a lease and moving offices potentially qualify for that, especially if the company isn’t large to begin with?

      8. Noah*

        I’m not persuaded they would have to move if another solution could not be worked out. That does not seem to satisfy the “reasonable” aspect of “reasonable” accommodation. It seems like having her move around the office to avoid dogs, along with the company employees at least keeping the dogs to one floor, would work out okay in this case, though.

      9. Dog person*

        Can’t they decline to hire dog-phobic employees outright, or is that considered a protected class?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Yeah, refusing to hire someone who has a disability that requires accommodation under the ADA would be illegal, and it sounds like that’s what you’re suggesting, so.

          Dog-friendly offices tend to get around that whole mess by making it known that they’re dog-friendly and allowing people to opt out of the hiring process rather than being the reason the dogs had to stay home. It’s pretty similar to the way companies that are hostile to women will make sure women who apply there know that and can “choose to opt out” instead of trying to push the company to follow the law.

        2. Nic*

          Only if the job consists of working with dogs. It’s reasonable not to hire someone with a phobia about the central part of the job you want them to do, when that phobia cannot be reasonably disentangled from the job description.

          It is not reasonable to refuse to hire someone because of a side issue that no-one could reasonably think was part of the job; you don’t hire people with clown phobias who want to join the circus (unless you’re a circus without clowns), but if you’re running a library, then the issue of clown phobia just isn’t germane to the question of whether someone is a good librarian (and that’s true even if you’re a library that allows employees to indulge in face-painting sessions every month and some people have historically preferred clown faces over tigers or vampires!).

      10. Topcat*

        Say you have one employee who’s severely allergic to dogs, and another employee who’s blind with a service dog, and it’s a single floor. I honestly don’t know how you navigate that.

    2. SignalLost*

      No, but OP’s company might have to move out of a coworking space. And to be honest, I realize that’s not what this letter is about but I’m bothered by the idea a company is using a coworking space rather than having their own premises. I’m sure there’s three hundred reasons, I’m sure the employees all love it the same way employees all love open offices, hot-desking, hoteling, etc, I’m sure it’s hip and trendy, and it horrifies me nonetheless.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m with you. I think co-working spaces can be great for remote workers or small teams, but when you have a whole company moving in, is it really a co-working space?

        1. The Original K.*

          I know of a company that uses a co-working space (I found out when I interviewed there) and I found it pretty weird. It was a small company, but still – like, doing performance reviews in a co-working space seems fraught to me.

          1. Red 5*

            The place where I have a virtual office it would be super easy to do performance reviews. They’ve got multiple conference rooms that are really easy to book, but also have several small private areas set up kind of like restaurant booths for having private one on ones when necessary. IIRC the booths are just first come first served and open to anybody. Reserving the conference rooms is based on the plan you sign up for as to how many hours you can book them for.

            There’s also a lot of small offices that are already furnished that can be rented relatively easily so a company could, if they wanted, just rent one extra room for a month when reviews are being done. There’s lots of potential solutions.

            Generally not too different than a place that has an open office plan, only the conference rooms can be reserved by more than one company so you might have to schedule further in advance.

          2. Managed Chaos*

            Co-working spaces don’t always mean zero privacy, so I don’t think this is necessarily a huge concern.

          3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            My company uses a coworking space. 80-90% of our FT staff work from home, there’s only a handful that go in, and even they work from home 2 days a week. My team had an on-site meeting earlier this year and the space was great. They have a shared office (I believe 4 people share the space) and you can also reserve conference rooms, there are some private spaces to hold important calls in addition to various tables/hot-desking. I’m sure it’s an adjustment to having a private office but it is a very reasonable choice considering our company’s set-up.

        2. Travel_mug*

          I actually love co-working space for smaller offices or small branches of a larger company. Obviously its not much of a co-working space if 500 people from the same company all work there, but if 5 people from one company are at a small office, you can often get a better location and nicer amenities at a place like WeWork that you would by trying to lease traditional office space. Plus, maybe it is hip and trendy, but I like having gyms, ping pong tables, beer, free toothbrushes, and all the other random stuff you get in these co-working spaces that you probably wouldn’t get if you office leased a traditional small office space.

      2. Hermione at Heart*

        This is super common in my city (DC) especially for startups, which is what the company in this example sounds like it might be (happy hour, dog-friendly office, coworking space) or for branch offices (a lot of corporations headquartered elsewhere nonetheless still have a small DC office). Most of the employees I know in these situations actually do like it — the coworking spaces are typically a lot nicer than where the company would be otherwise, they usually have an area that’s “theirs” (so they’re not fighting for space everyday) and it’s more flexible than a typical commercial lease.

        This is the downside, though: you’re sharing a kitchen and common spaces with people who don’t work for your company and so when something goes wrong, the options are a lot more limited. Sexual harassment in a coworking space has got to be an HR nightmare (and some companies that use them are big enough to have HR, if it’s a branch office).

        1. SignalLost*

          I am not less horrified just because exactly the sorts of companies that would do this are doing this.

            1. SignalLost*

              It’s often hard enough, in buildings that share resources, to establish norms that all companies can try to uphold. I worked in a building that had an inadvertent security breach because we weren’t good at monitoring the secure elevators, and we shared a floor with two other companies. A coworking space seems likely to magnify this, by virtue of the fact that some people aren’t attached to the companies there and may not know or care about any company-specific resources. While my current employer shares a floor with two other companies, they aren’t using our kitchen supplies.

              The larger issue for me is that I think there’s a real erosion of worker rights being spearheaded by the startup and gig economies, and adopted in other sectors. I think company-driven decisions about perks and working spaces are not necessarily likely to be great – the erosion of “working space” from an office with a door to a cubicle to an open office to one of those hideous tables with coworkers cheek-by-jowl is something that benefits a company in lower cost of space, but doesn’t typically benefit the employee. Nap pods, Friday drinks, beer fridges, ping-pong tables, and other perks associated with tech/startups are, from the company’s POV, ways to encourage employees to work longer hours and more days (and I am not even going to get into companies paying for women to freeze and store eggs so they can delay families).

              What I see with erosion of typical workplace norms is companies trying to get more for less, not do more with less. (Which is its own level of problem; I’m not defending that either.) I feel pretty strongly that employers craft a message that “this is nicer than we’d have if we had to pay for our own space!” but … is that factually correct? And is that enough to force employees into open offices because the company is growing and needs more desk space? Things seem to rarely move back to legitimately benefiting the employee once the crunch is over. That’s what horrifies me.

              1. boo bot*

                “What I see with erosion of typical workplace norms is companies trying to get more for less, not do more with less.”

                This is well put, as is the rest of your comment!

              2. Amili*

                So, the worst of all of this is – the evolution of the office has been in no small way driven, not by what companies need or what employees need, but by the office furniture industry and what they think is needed or best. Which, yeah, it can be a good thing (see: adjustable height desks, ergonomically designed chairs, a push for greener spaces and better lighting), buuut…then you get the open office, and now the “living” office (which is meant to change as the “needs” change, but really, just means a lot more chaos for employees when their desking setup changes every other year – or faster).

                Office furniture is a super, super intense industry – and most people have no idea it even exists!

                1. SignalLost*

                  So? If companies refused to buy office furniture that necessitates downsizing offices, office furniture companies would stop selling it. Companies’ goal of “saving money” isn’t driven by the existence of office furniture in only certain configurations. It’s the other way around.

                2. Beatrice*

                  SignalLost is right. The evolution of office space is driven more by companies’ need to reduce overhead costs by putting more people in less space, letting people work from home, and having people who aren’t co-located collaborate together. The office furniture industry is just making available what the market demands. (I agree, it is super intense!)

        2. not a dr*

          I work in a co-working space and we still have our own offices! People are assuming it is a hot desking/open office/co-working space. But that is not the only option.

          We have our own offices and just share board rooms (which you can book via calendar) bathrooms, and a kitchen. Everything is cleaned by janitorial staff, so there are no issues.

          We are a small organization so it allows us to have a much nicer office space, and more interaction to prevent isolation which can be an issue with small orgs.

          I honestly do very much enjoy it! :)

          1. Lake*

            That doesn’t sound like a co-working space though. That sounds like a business that rents part of a building. A lot of business do that. A co-working space usually includes an open office, hot-desking situation.

              1. not a dr*

                Oh! I guess I forgot to include there is a central open/hot desking area. But it is only used as overflow space for co-op students, interns, etc. So maybe that is what tips us over into co-working territory?

            1. Travel_mug*

              This isn’t the case with most of the co-working spaces I’ve seen! The ones I’ve worked in are as described by not a dr and by the OP. Individual office space for each company, but shared public space (bathrooms, kitchen, lounges, the bar area, etc). Some people like to work in the lounge/kitchen/etc but everyone who is there must have at least one office that is their own space.
              I would argue that what you’re describing with only hot desking is a pretty unusual way for co-working space to be organized, and isn’t what people typically mean when they say co-working.

            2. Ali G*

              No that’s not right. Co-working means many business together with shared spaces. It’s saves on money because you are not responsible for paying for meeting space, cleaning, kitchens, printing, reception, etc. on your own. All the companies in the space share those costs and amenities. The actual work areas could be hot desks, but they are mostly offices (assigned to specific companies), or other assigned spaces. The hot desks are for over flow or visitors.

            3. De Minimis*

              WeWork is structured this way, that’s where my previous employer ended up going. We rented four small offices, but the ‘neighbors” were only about 10-15 feet away and the offices are the “fishbowl” type so you can see them any time you look in that direction.

            4. SS Express*

              It sounds exactly like a coworking space to me (and my job is providing support to small businesses so I’ve seen a lot of coworking spaces).

          2. Arya Snark*

            We use a similar space. Right now, it’s just being used for meetings, interviews, reviews, etc. For those situations, we can get private offices or conference rooms. The space also has open/hot desks that we can use as needed. We all work remotely otherwise for now but those hot desks come in handy when someones internet goes down or they are getting a new roof, etc. At some point, we’d like to have our own space within this office but it’s not needed yet and it’s a great solution for now.

        3. Washi*

          Yeah, I don’t know if it was technically called a “coworking” space, but the nonprofit I used to work for had this exact set up, where the offices were separate but the bathrooms and kitchens and conference rooms were shared.

          We also had almost this exact same issue in two different locations. People in other locations would bring their dogs in and were really disrespectful to our coworker Jane who had a dog phobia. In one location, this fancy lawyer kept bringing his dogs in and then having (I assume) his admin watch them. Both he and the admin would roll their eyes and very resentfully comply when we reminded them to keep the dogs leashed and on their side of the office.

          Then we moved out of the frying pan into the fire. In the next office, one of the spaces was a studio shortly afterward rented by an elderly artist who kept bringing his dog in and letting her wander all around the building, and also was never agile enough to catch her himself when she got out. All attempts to shame him into keeping his dog leashed were unsuccessful and poor Jane basically needed a lookout every time she needed to use the bathroom because you never knew when the dog would appear. The building management just shrugged their shoulders when we complained.

          The only advice I have is to not be afraid to stick up for the dog-phobic person’s needs. People can be jerks and may not be receptive, but at least at the first office, we got them to grudgingly agree to keep the dogs contained to their own space. It took a lot of badgering though, and everyone involved needs to have each other’s backs.

      3. Red 5*

        It is pretty hip and trendy at the moment. Most of the co-working spaces around me have parts of their advertising pitches that are specifically geared at convincing companies to use parts of their space as their offices. You can pay a little extra to have part of it designated as your particular company’s space.

        It does have some pretty big advantages for a small company just starting out actually. In the co-working space I’m a part of (I just do the virtual office where I can upgrade to a spot in the shared area every few months when I need to) there’s a lot of services and events that are provided by the co-working company rather than the companies that are renting the space from them. That means a small company could have those perks without the overhead and administrative heft of providing them by themselves. Obviously you end up paying for it in the end because you know, that’s what your payments go to. But a lot of people don’t realize what actually can go into just dealing with having an office kitchen for example.

        There’s pros and cons, obviously. In a way it reminds me of the shift to using contractors instead of employees, but I could see it being incredibly useful for some types of businesses. And considering some of the stuff going on at my job right now, the employee experience part of it probably would be only nominally different. I’m already in an open office in a place that’s cut their budget for administrative staff so thin we have to pay a contractor to change a light bulb, so IDK.

        All that said, as somebody with an animal allergy, I think dog friendly co-working spaces would do well to pitch and market themselves as having a floor or area that is dog-free to get ahead of the debate on the subject. “Come rent with us! We let you bring your puppies and we’ve already taken steps to help you out with the inevitable debate and ADA questions!”

        1. Managed Chaos*

          I think your last paragraph is a good idea.

          In general, with more start ups and smaller firms that need flexibility (and allow some work from home) I can see this kind of set-up being very successful. You aren’t trying to sign a lease based on what employees you project you will have in X years and configure a space that works for that.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I used to work in a coworking space when I was at a small, emerging nonprofit. I know they get a bad rap, but it truly wasn’t bad, and we weren’t doing it to be hip and trendy. We were doing it because it was mission-aligned and because it was so much cheaper than rent. Additionally, we had so many folks who worked from home at that time that we really didn’t need as much space. Once we hit 6 FTEs, we moved into a private suite within the coworking space, and when we reached 10 FTEs, we moved into a completely separate office.

        But our coworking space was kind of magical. It had all sorts of designated rooms and spaces that would have made dog-phobia accommodation relatively easy. Nonetheless, OP’s group does need to engage with this head-on, and a change of office has to be in the menu of options.

        1. Red 5*

          Granted I’ve only really experienced one co-working space, but I agree with you on a good one having plenty of ways that could make the accommodation relatively easy. The one I use has two very large floors and lots of small rooms and spaces that are used flexibly.

          The fact that this co-worker doesn’t want to be on the same floor as the dogs could be a bit tricky, but if you actively engage with the problem in good faith, I think a good co-working space would be able to find a useful solution. Obviously there’s always a risk of the personalities involved but it actually seems like something where a solution might not be as painful as it seems up front.

      5. Emily K*

        In terms of control over the space, it’s the same situation as a small company who subleases space in a larger company’s offices. That’s not a co-working space where people could be different every day, but it’s still space where another company is largely deciding how the space will look and operate. I worked for many years for a nonprofit that leased space from a larger nonprofit. We had to walk through their reception area to get to our space so there were security and office-wide policies we had no say in, they owned the printers/copiers and the kitchen appliances so decided what to buy and when to replace it, and we weren’t allowed to use any space that wasn’t ours even if it was not currently being leased (like storing bulky materials in an empty cubicle instead of our of our offices). They contracted with the cleaning and maintenance services so they got to decide whether we had recycling pickup and what sort of overhead lighting they would use (LED or fluorescent). We had very little say in the office environment beyond being able to decide what hours employees were required to be in the office, which employees occupied which of the offices and cubicles we leased, and what kind of pens to order.

      6. De Minimis*

        It is often a necessity in areas with extremely high rents, especially for mid-size or smaller organizations. My previous employer had to move to co-working space after our building sold [we’d had a well-below market rate sublease for a couple of decades prior.] Renting an office similar to the one we’d left just wasn’t financially feasible, and the only option that had a similar cost to what we’d been paying was coworking space—and even that required a move to have most staff work from home permanently or at least most of the time.

    3. You can call me flower, if you want to*

      Yeah now that Alison has responded in the comments I see what she means, but the initial response was a little muddy to me. So key takeaways would be:

      1. Someone from OPs company needs to speak with the manager of the space and make sure there is a dog free area.

      2. Allow Jane to work from home, but make sure she’s included and doesn’t miss out on opportunities.

      3. It is illegal for the space to not accommodate those who cannot be around dogs due to a disability covered under the ADA

      Also it sounds like OP is trying to put Janes needs first so Kudos, you definitely should put her needs as a priority.

      Am I understanding this all correctly?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually don’t know if it’s illegal for the owner of the space itself not to accommodate the employees of a company renting there. It’s illegal for the employer, but the space owner? Not sure. I mean, the owner of the space has to, for example, provide handicap accessible bathroom stalls and parking spaces, but I don’t think they’re have the same legal obligations that an employer has in regard to stuff like this situation. (I could be wrong though.) But what is definitely true is that the employers who are renting space there need to ensure they accommodate their employees, which could mean the building simply doesn’t work for them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think my wording here was clear enough. To clarify: Building owners have different legal obligations than employers. For example, building owners aren’t typically legally liable for sexual harassment that takes place within an office on their property, but the employer in that office would be.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I can see the owner of the space saying “you knew we were dog friendly when you moved in” and cancelling the lease.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m not sure what the building owner’s incentive to cancel the lease would be when not cancelling it means they can still collect rent.

            1. Beatrice*

              And putting a tenant in the position of choosing between complying with Federal employment law vs. keeping their lease is not awesome for business.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the ADA will apply to the coworking space and the owner of the space because it’s operating as a place of public accommodation. However, it also hinges on a bunch of health code issues and issues related to whether Jane’s phobia qualifies for accommodation. The burden is lower for the owner of the space, however, because most of the accessibility requirements for places of public accommodation turn on physical accessibility. That means there are different standards for the coworking space owner v. Jane’s employer.

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        I’m guessing they meant service animals and/or companies renting the space whose work directly involves dogs.

    4. MommyMD*

      Not even sure Jane’s aversion to dogs rises to the level of a disability. Not everything does. If Jane was hired pre dogs company should accommodate her.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        But what about the other companies? Jane’s not their employee.

  2. Moray*

    If you have one and she hasn’t made use of it, recommending an EAP to Jane might be a good idea–not to try to overcome her phobia but to talk through some possible solutions with a sympathetic, unbiased voice who isn’t going to fault her for getting upset by the conversation.

    1. Dragoning*

      Oooh, I would not be happy if I was terrified of dogs, didn’t even complain about the dogs, and someone suggested I go to visit the EAP. If I were Jane, I would like to think I was, you know, handling a real problem as professionally as I could.

      1. SignalLost*

        I would not be happy either. At what point does suggesting an EAP stop? I don’t mean in the AAM commentariat, I mean “Bob dresses like a bum, maybe we should suggest the EAP to him so he can budget for new clothing!” Plus, I may be wrong, but since the OP knows Jane is phobic of dogs and that presumably means the office at large does too, why not try talking to JANE, and finding out what she wants and can agree to, rather than hinting at EAPs or giving her accommodations that don’t necessarily work for her? Since it sounds like everyone knows about this, there’s no violation of the law by proactively engaging, is there?

        1. Red 5*

          Very much this, I do think it’s important to get Jane into this conversation 100% and very, very soon.

          I’m allergic to dogs and have a (slight?) phobia. Most people don’t know that about me because I’ve not worked in dog friendly offices much, but I would hope that if my office suddenly decided to become dog friendly that nobody would start deciding what I wanted or needed without asking me first. People make a lot of assumptions about stuff like this that might not necessarily be true because especially with phobias it can be extremely individual in how it presents and what triggers it. For example, a social group I belong to has a member who brings her dog with her sometimes and he’s a big labrador who spends the entire meeting asleep under her chair. That’s fine for me. It sounds like that would not at all be fine with Jane.

          Everybody is different, so instead of making assumptions just talk to people. Especially if you come at it with a “I’d like to help make this better for everybody” attitude.

      2. TBoT*

        I agree. No matter how it is framed, referring someone to an EAP is going to come across as suggesting that someone get mental health support to deal with a phobia that has nothing to do with their ability to do the work. I mean, even if a phobia *does* pertain to someone’s work this can be really dicey territory.

        I had a phobia of flying, and as my career progressed to the point that I needed to travel for work, this was an issue. I worked around it for a while by taking Amtrak, and eventually decided, on my own, to speak to my doctor about it. It was my manager’s call to say something to me like, “We need you to travel for work. What steps can you take to make that happen?” It was not at all my managers call to say something like, “You should talk to the EAP to get some help about your flying phobia.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If the ADA is in play, the full answer can’t be “here’s some help to fix your phobia on your own, we’re not changing anything.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think Moray is suggesting that? They explicitly say that it’s not to require Jane to work on her phobia, but rather, to give her a safe space in which she can vent her anxieties or concerns.

        (I’m not sure it’s the right tactic, but it sounds categorically different than saying “We’re not changing anything.”)

          1. boo bot*

            Yeah. I think it might be okay if it came after a comprehensive plan of action for what the company was going to do, but otherwise it will come off as telling Jane it’s her problem to fix.

            I’m imagining if I told my employer that I was having issues with a new company policy where we all have to switch tasks every five minutes to constantly maintain a fresh perspective (Switch It Up! I just Made It Up!) because I have ADHD, and their first response was, “Here, talk to our EAP.”

            I would take that to mean two things: (1) they aren’t going to accommodate my request, and (2) they think I need to “fix” having ADHD in order to work for them, and that I can do that by talking to a counselor.

            They might not mean it like that, but I would be looking for a new job.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I didn’t read this as sending Jane to the EAP to fix her phobia on her own. Moray specifically said, “not to try to overcome her phobia.” I don’t know whether an EAP person is the right person to talk to, but someone to “talk through some possible solutions with a sympathetic, unbiased voice who isn’t going to fault her for getting upset by the conversation” is more likely to be found outside the office than inside, with all due respect to OP who is aware enough to be looking for a solution.

    3. Beth*

      Please don’t do this! I get that you’re trying to suggest she look to an EAP for possible solutions, not a phobia cure. But that’s not what an EAP is for. The ‘solutions’ here are really either “Jane gets rid of her phobia” or “the company finds a way for Jane to work that doesn’t expose her to dogs.” The former may not be an option (phobias don’t respond consistently to any given treatment option, even if the person with the phobia has great access to treatment), and definitely isn’t something the employer can suggest as the path forward (her medical details and treatment plan are private and none of their business). The latter requires the company to make concrete changes to their setup, either by allowing Jane to work from home or by providing a dog-free office space. Those aren’t things an EAP can do; they’re things someone within the company needs to agree to and set up, not something a neutral third party can implement. Suggesting an EAP here just makes it sound like it’s Jane’s job to fix this, when in actuality it’s the company’s responsibility to provide a workable environment.

    4. Anon for today and probably tomorrow*

      I would find that incredibly offensive if my employer tried to go that route.

      I don’t have a phobia about them, but I am severely allergic and because of that and because there are so many dog owners who seem to feel that somehow their dogs are different (“Oh, my dog is very clean”) and who sometimes have absolutely no problem when their dog tries to leap onto me (“he just wants to make friends”), I have become very very skittish about dogs. They bring them here for our students and because our custodial staff is not great, all it takes is for me to step into that space for five minutes before my eyes swell up and I start wheezing.

      If someone at my place of employment told me to use EAP to get over my skittishness, I would be on the phone to the union in a heartbeat.

  3. Pizza Boi*

    This is a different flavor of dogs in the workplace post because they moved to a new space that allows the dogs. They haven’t had this perk for very long and it is already causing problems.

    It seems like it would work for Jane to work on that other floor all the time, and for “Friday Drinks” to find another venue.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Or… Friday drinks can stay where they are and the co-worker with the dog either a) skips out on Friday drinks when she has her dog with her, or b) leaves the dog on its original floor in a crate or a closed office. If I had a co-worker who was terribly afraid of dogs, I would stay out of her space with my dog.

      Although, if other companies’ employees join in on Friday drinks and they have dogs with them, it’s a tough call. Personally I think a large space like that should have some dog-free zones, like kitchens. I love my dog and he enjoys joining us for the occasional beer (he does not drink the beer), but keeping an eye on him so he doesn’t try to snorfle the cheese plate means I can’t relax and enjoy myself.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Yes, please, kitchen should be a dog free zone. My kitchen at home might not be a pet free zone, but people at work didn’t sign up for dog hair in their food.

      2. Zephy*

        It sounds like there are multiple coworkers with dogs that bring them to work. OP doesn’t specify how many people work in the office, but implies that it’s more than just OP, Jane, and Lucille (and Lucille’s dog). Containing the dogs for an hour while the employees socialize one day a week theoretically shouldn’t be a problem, but we also don’t know the layout of this office building, so maybe it’s really not doable.

        I do agree that the kitchen should be a dog-free zone, though.

        1. Just Play A Doctor On TV*

          Most coworking spaces that are dog friendly also allow dogs in the kitchen area because they usually have rules that the dog has to stay leashed and supervised. Most people use the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee or tea, or microwave their lunches. Since the mugs are hanging up and silverware/dishware is in sealed drawers/cabinets, plus dogs aren’t spending extended periods of time in them, I’m not really seeing the issue? I think the big thing with dogs in kitchens is that you don’t want them around food prep.
          As the OP is in a coworking space, it’s highly unlikely that the coworking space management would agree to making the kitchen area dog free.

  4. Dragoning*

    I think only bringing in the dog when Jane is working remotely is a good compromise. No, you can’t control what people outside the company are doing–but you can’t do that regardless of what policy you put in place, so I’m not quite sure why it’s a factor. Jane seems to be at least able to be in the same building as a dog, if not the same floor, so depending on the setup, it might not even be an issue.

    Add to that, that, well, bringing dogs to the office isn’t exactly an established perk yet, is it? You just moved into the space. I think now is a great time to set up policies that prevent problems like Jane’s from being resented and turning into that office who honestly probably gave a worker a case for constructive dismissal based on how poorly they treated her for being allergic.

    Don’t be that office.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      How about instead of working around Jane’s schedule they just make a dog schedule instead? That way, people who are uncomfortable with dogs but are also uncomfortable speaking up can be accommodated. So, for example, people can bring in dogs and Mondays and Tuesdays. If Jane and others choose to work from home every Monday and Tuesday, that should be allowed. Everyone else can work from home some combination of Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays so they can still save on dog walkers. I just feel like that’s the most fair option here and the least likely to ruffle feathers.

      1. Blue Bunny*

        This makes sense, particularly if people are paying for part-time daycare/pet sitters. Most day cares expect you to maintain the same schedule so they can plan for the appropriate amount of coverage.

      2. Washi*

        I agree with this – although I would have said something even less frequent, maybe weekly at most (if non dog lovers need to schedule meetings in the office, it might be tough to have 40% of the week off limits.)

        If I were Jane, I would rather just have it set in stone that no matter what happens, I can count on Monday – Thursday to be dog-free, and that I won’t ever plan to come in on Dog Fridays.

    2. Jen*

      Agreed. What if Jane has a meeting on the floor with the dogs on it? It’s reasonable to only allow people to bring their dogs in when she won’t be in the office. I also agree that policies need to be in place regarding bringing dogs in to work, to ensure the situation is fair and safe for everyone. As someone who is frightened of large, energetic dogs (think labs, etc), if an organization I was working at just let people bring their dogs in without any sort of policies in place, and without consulting staff, I’d be quite irritated.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      Are you saying that when one commenter starts barking, they all start barking?

      …I’ll show myself out.

  5. chocolate lover*

    I didn’t know there was a debate about that, assuming you don’t burn it (which a colleague once did so badly, it set off the fire alarm)

    1. silverpie*

      That happened all the time at my old building. Eventually, the property management put in a no-popcorn rule (but exempted our office when we procured an air popper).

  6. MuseumChick*

    Alison mentioned this in her answer, and it was not a part of your original letter but I want to underscore this: Ensure everyone in your office does not blame Jane for whatever limitations are places with having dogs in the office. She probably already feel embarrassed/weird about this.

    1. OP*

      Hey – OP here. It’s generally a fairly sensitive office and I think people are trying to do that – a couple of other people have also piped up with ‘I am slightly allergic’ or ‘I find it hard to concentrate with a dog here to be honest’, I think as much to make Jane comfortable with any measures put in place as anything else.

      The thing is, nobody else has is affected by a dog on the same floor but out of our designated office space, so a solution that would work for everybody else clearly wouldn’t work for Jane.

      1. PollyQ*

        I wouldn’t assume those people are primarily trying to make Jane feel better. It sounds to me like they’re gently trying to lodge actual discomfort with the policy, and I’d take it as more votes to end, or seriously curtail it.

        (Bias: I’m not a dog person, and I wouldn’t be eager to work in an office that had lots of them around all the time.)

        1. JJ*

          Yeah I think Polly nailed it, people who are pro-dog-offices seem to be the louder voices than those who are anti, but it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the majority. “Your dog is being disruptive” is inevitably going to be met with an emotional response, because you’re bringing your personal pet in and people have trouble being objective about that. See: Lucille bringing her dog in even though she knows it terrifies her coworker. I never complain about workplace dogs, even when they make it difficult to work because I know the reaction is going to be strong and I’ll be painted as some dog-hating authoritarian figure who took away all the fun. If people could safely speak up about it you might be surprised about how many people really enjoy this “perk” and how many just try to work around it.

          1. MassMatt*

            There have definitely been reactions like that in the comments when letters about dogs in the office have come up before.

            I like the way Alison framed the issue , people’s ability to do their work trumps the perk of bringing a dog into the office. But even here there has been some “well, this doesn’t rise to the level of an ADA accommodation so…” type replies, implying the person with the dog phobia just needs to suck it up.

            I have had a dog, and like most dogs, but people are defensive about their pets. putting someone in the position of saying they are afraid of or distracted by your dog is kind of like their having to tell you they think your kids are ugly.

            Dog owners are probably not the best judges of how well-behaved their dogs are. Maybe you find his barking, shedding, running around, and/or slobber delightful, I doubt all your coworkers do.

            I get that some people love dog friendly offices but IMO the pitfalls (productivity lost to distraction, and OMG liability for bites/dogfights!) outweigh the advantages.

        2. OP*

          That’s fair – I think some of the people who’ve mentioned something are genuinely uncomfortable (and while I’m fine around dogs if there was a vote on whether I wanted one in the room while I’m trying to work I’d say no myself). But just based on the people saying it I think a couple are more concerned about Jane and trying to get something sorted without making it Jane’s ‘fault’ – in particular a colleague who’s very good friends with Lucille and was clearly uncomfortable that her friend was making Jane uncomfortable has really been pushing to get some ground rules established (I assume she’s had a word with Lucille separately too)

        3. NOK*

          I’m a huge dog person, and I disliked working in a dog-friendly office. Too distracting.

          1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

            I’m fairly sure I’d get very little work done if I had a dog-friendly office. When I work from home, I use doggie breaks as my reward for getting things done, since I would spend the whole day cuddling with them if left to my own devices.

        4. Clisby*

          Same here, except I would not work in an office that allowed dogs (other than service dogs) unless it was the only job I could get to pay the bills.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I feel the same.

            OP, if you keep this a dog-friendly office, even if only on a certain days or in certain parts of the office, make sure you’re telling anyone you interview about it up front (or even include it in job postings). Make sure people have the information they need to self-select out when they need to, and know this policy will narrow your candidate pool by some percentage.

        5. Health Insurance Nerd*

          Honestly, I don’t know that being/not being a dog person necessarily means you’re biased- I say this because I AM a dog person; I have a dog, I love my dog, but I still wouldn’t want to work in a dog-friendly office (this also applies to kid-friendly offices. I have and love children, but no thank you!).

        6. Anon for today and probably tomorrow*

          It’s been my experience that if you say, “I don’t like dogs,” many people will look at you as if you said, “I like to murder people.”

          If you have employees chiming in saying they have allergies, find it hard to concentrate, etc., I would take those at face value.

      2. Jimming*

        But maybe those people really feel that way and haven’t felt like they could speak up yet. It’d be weird to be okay with dogs but then to lie about allergies to help a coworker when there’s other ways you can help without lying. For example “Here’s what I read on AAM about this..” Also I can easily see people who are uncomfortable around dogs not wanting to say anything if they think it’s just them. It sounds like now they have an opening to share their uncomfortableness.

  7. Katherine*

    There are people who have a legitimate need for a service dog in order to function and do their job…how would you accommodate for that person as well as the phobic/allergic person? ( I say this as someone who can understand the allergy portion of this equation quite well, as a cat friendly office would likely kill me) I love dogs but I don’t necessarily love how people have trained their dogs to act in public. I would think that even in a co-working space, you would need to designate an animal free area to accommodate for anyone who can’t be around animals for whatever reason.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Typically, the employer would have to accommodate both people. But, I’m not sure how this would work in the kind of space the OP describes. I would love to hear Alison’s thoughts on that.

    2. Hopeful Future Accountant*

      I’m curious about the service dog aspect to, as I am someone who has a service dog and will be searching for my first job before long.

      1. All Stitched Up*

        Another, less dramatic, phrase I’ve heard more often is “conflicting access needs.”

    3. hula-la*

      I can’t speak for Jane, but I know that my niece was terrified of dogs, but was ok with service dogs. She had seen an episode of Sesame Street that discussed what service dogs were and how they worked, and she was fine with them. Maybe that would work for Jane, but it also might not. I agree with the poster above you, who mentioned that Jane should not be made to feel blamed for whatever limits are placed on dogs in the office.

      1. Red 5*


        My phobia is kind of slight compared to what most people think of as a “phobia” but I am 100% completely fine with any dog that’s at work. Dogs with jobs just don’t register in the fear part of my brain AT ALL.

        There’s reasons for it that kind of venture into off-topic, but at the end of the day most of the “but what if’s” I’ve seen about this scenario actually come from people who aren’t the ones with phobias. There have been news stories about people preemptively deciding to not allow service dogs because “somebody might be afraid of dogs” even though nobody with a phobia was known to be present and/or had complained at all.

        It’s just one of those potential scenarios that people bring up a lot that seems to actually be mostly simple in real life when it actually happens.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Red 5 I love dogs but also have a slight phobia of dogs. When I was young I had a big barking golden retriever running headlong at me, it was ultimately contained by an invisible fence but I did not know that at the time, I thought it was going to attack me. I still love to pet and play with dogs that I know, that are on a leash, or if off a leash under the supervision of its owner/caretaker and told its friendly.

          When my phobia kicks into place is when I see a loose dog off a leash without an owner in sight and no barrier between me and the dog.

      2. Mimi Me*

        My daughter has a dog phobia but is fine with service dogs. We have several blind relatives who use service dogs and she knows that they go through rigorous training to be allowed in public spaces. If the dog is “working” and has the harness and vest in plain sight my daughter is fine (still anxious, but not in full blown panic mode).

    4. Cousin Itt*

      As someone who is not fond of dogs, albeit not as phobic as Jane seems to be, service dogs (especially seeing eye dogs) are very different from regular dogs. Most people’s fear of dogs comes from worrying they will jump on you or be aggressive to you in some way. Service dogs are trained out of these behaviours and generally don’t show interest or interact with people the way a pet might because they’re working and 100% focused on helping their owner.

      I may be wrong, but I could see Jane being fine with a service dog when a regular pet dog scares her.

      1. Roja*

        Ditto here. I’m not as phobic as Jane but am generally very uncomfortable around dogs I don’t know. Service dogs are totally fine, because I know they have to go through such intense training that I don’t worry they’re going to do something dangerous.

        That might not, of course, apply to Jane. But it might.

      2. Kiki*

        Yes! I wouldn’t say I have a dog phobia, but I’m not comfortable around big, unfamiliar dogs. Big service dogs are fine by me because I know their likeliness of jumping on or attacking me is similar to that of most people I will encounter.

      3. Observer*

        That’s not really relevant. Phobias, by their nature, go well beyond logic and reality. Let’s face it, if Jane’s fear were based n real world concerns she would have been able to stay on the same floor as the dog. Her rational mind CLEARLY knew that the dog didn’t actually pose any danger to her, but she still was that afraid that she had to move.

        I’m not saying that SOME people with phobias might not see service dogs differently, but it’s not something that you could actually realistically expect. If that happens, great, but it is not something that you should ever factor in to your plans unless you already KNOW that this is the case.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          If it were the case that a coworker needed to bring in a dog as a service animal, though, that would come up as part of the interactive accommodations process.

          1. Observer*

            Of course. I’m not saying that the conversation shouldn’t happen. I’m just pointing out that assuming that this won’t be a problem because of REASONABLE reasons is not a really good idea.

      4. Quiltrrrr*

        This is the way I am…I have a dog phobia, but not of trained service dogs. I would not be able to work in an office that had dogs that are pets around, but would have no issue with a trained service dog.

      5. Red 5*

        Yup, exactly, that’s a big part of it. A service dog/working dog is pretty much always a known quantity in an interaction. You aren’t MEANT to be dealing with them, if everything is going correctly then you’re supposed to kind of ignore them.

      6. Yvette*

        Exactly, true service dogs (for the people with physical limitations, such as those involving mobility, vision and hearing) tend to be very well trained and, for lack of a better word, calmer than your typical pet dog. (And this is coming from someone who has two dogs.

    5. LawBee*

      They would have to come up with an accommodation for both, I would think. Banning all dogs wouldn’t work in this specific instance, but in a theoretical office where we have Tasha who has a service dog and Jim who is phobic, both need to be accommodated. An all-dog ban wouldn’t apply to Tasha (because you can’t ban service dogs) but it would be easier to find accommodations for Jim for one animal than an office of them. Theoretically.

    6. desktroid*

      Interesting question that I was going to ask, even though I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    7. M. Albertine*

      This happened to us at church: my 3-year-old son was terrified of dogs and a person with a service dog was going to begin attending. We communicated with the new parishoner and arranged for my son to meet the dog at a safe distance, made sure he knew where the dog was so he wouldn’t be surprised, and of course the dog was well-behaved so there wasn’t any issues with unexpected encounters. In time, he got used to the dog’s presence and became comfortable once he knew he wasn’t going to be accosted.

      It was very considerate for her to let the church know she was coming and was willing to work with us to head off any problems.

      1. Red 5*

        I just want to say kudos to both you and the dog’s owner for how you handled it. That’s just great all around, and it’s such a good example of how if everybody just comes into the situation in good faith to want to work it out, it can often be worked out.

    8. AnonyMouse*

      “I love dogs but I don’t necessarily love how people have trained their dogs to act in public” 100% summarizes my feelings about most people’s dogs. I definitely appreciate people who take the time to properly train their dog and take having a well behaved dog seriously. But I can’t with the people who don’t train their dog and then make excuses for it.

      1. AnotherKate*

        Seconded. I love my dog and I love most other people’s dogs, but the way people let their animals behave in public spaces drives me crazy. Since most of us are focused at work when we’re at work, it means we’re NOT going to be terribly focused on our dogs. Cue distractions, annoyances, begging, barking, etc.

        Plus I have seen too many dogs who are great with people reveal that they are not, in fact, great with other dogs–not exactly a scenario you want to deal with when you’re supposed to be working! (I speak as a person whose dog seems like a complete flop who lives for snuggles around humans, but turns into a snarling “pre-emptive strike” fighter the second another dog looks at him wrong). If the whole office is dog-friendly, that means you will have multiple dogs thrown together, with limited attention from their owners. There are many, many dogs who are well trained and/or have the kind of temperament naturally where this wouldn’t be a problem. But in my experience, there are far more who have not received the necessary training nor possess the natural temperament to handle that environment in a way that limits distractions and difficulties for the workers present.

        Even without adding a legitimate phobia into the mix, that’s a lot of potential pitfalls!

        1. Ro*

          I agree! And some dogs (like my own) even with extensive socialization and training are never going to be okay with other dogs around. One of the trainers we use reminded us that dogs are individuals. Some may never be okay meeting random other dogs, and that’s ok. Our dog would love to come to work with me and interact with all of the people(assuming all were ok with that) but might not be chill with other dogs.

    9. BelleMorte*

      As someone WITH a service dog for a disability, I want to say that people frequently use the “what if someone is scared or allergic” rationale to ban me from entering buildings, businesses, and places of employment. I actually had my contract discontinued after one of their golden boys complained that he was “allergic” to dogs and threatened to quit.

      The actual laws will vary depending on what country you are in but usually it goes by order of severity. If someone is literally going to die if I bring my dog in, they likely get priority, but otherwise phobias and allergies (except anaphylaxis) generally are not sufficient to bar service animals from performing because a. you shouldnt be near them or interacting with them and having them on a different floor or room is sufficient b. you shouldn’t be petting them c. general pet owners tend to carry more dander on a day to day basis than a single dog alone.

      1. Observer*

        golden boys complained that he was “allergic” to dogs and threatened to quit.

        Please don’t put allergic in quotes. Allergy is a real issue, even if it doesn’t lead to anaphylaxis.

        Should it have lead to your firing? I don’t know. But acting like it’s a non-issue doesn’t get you anywhere, for good reason.

        1. EH*

          This. I have allergies that can set off tension headaches, which mean I can’t work (or drive, or be around noise, etc once they really get going). I have other allergic reactions that are pretty mild, but repeated exposure to them over time (like every workday in an office) aggravates my chronic health issues and can cause me serious issues.

          Anaphylaxis is not even close to being the only “real” allergic reaction. It (appropriately!) gets the most publicity because it’s life-threatening, but it doesn’t mean anything shy of anaphylaxis is someone faking an allergy.

          1. Just Play A Doctor On TV*

            Yeah but the point was that animal allergies are different. BelleMorte is right, I’m horrifically allergic to cats. If I touch a cat and then my face, my eyes swell closed. A big coffee shop with a cat inside doesn’t set me off. Ten minutes in a Goodwill gets my throat scratching and eyes watering. I once was in a very small office with 2 cat owners and even taking daily allergy medicine, I’d still flair up. It’s not like allergies to nuts. So, again, in BelleMortes case they were right that merely bringing their dog into an office wouldn’t harm someone unless they were in a very small, unventilated office, in which case they would have been having an allergic reaction to the owner with or without the owner. I also read somewhere that there’s never been a recorded episode of anaphylactic shock from a dog allergy.

  8. KHB*

    It sounds like Jane’s tenure with the organization predates the move to the dog-friendly space. That’s a new twist, I think, on the “to dog or not to dog” question, because you’re not talking about taking away an established perk, but rather not rolling out the perk to begin with.

    1. OP*

      Yep, this is totally true – but it’s a perk of the building rather than the company, so even if we said no dogs for our staff she could still easily run into them in the kitchen etc.

      1. Samwise*

        Ew. I mean, my cats are in my kitchen at home (I clean the floor religiously!), but dogs in the office kitchen?? Yeah, that’s a problem right there.

        1. Temperance*

          I don’t think it’s that gross? Most “office kitchens” are just a coffeemaker and a microwave.

          1. Batgirl*

            Pet hair can definitely get into a microwave! My dog’s coat was like a dandelion clock on the cusp of a breez
            I don’t know how this gets past hygiene regs.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Yeahhhh but like… so can human hair. The world is not gonna be sterile and I wonder if it’s uniquely American that many people kind of expect it to be.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                Exactly. It’s like when people complain animals lick themselves and I think ‘You do know where people put their mouths, right?’

              2. Sheddy McShedderson*

                Okay, that seems like a false equivalency to me? Most of the dogs and cats I have met shed way more than I do. (The other one was a hairless cat, so I’d be worried if she shed more than I did.)

                1. Jerusha*

                  That can go the other way, too. I grew up around standard poodles. Poodles generally don’t shed – you have to take them for haircuts. I have hip-length hair. I shed far more, possibly in number of hairs, but definitely in terms of linear inches, than any dog I’ve ever lived with. (And, yes, finding hairs in weird places is just The Way Things Are.)

                  That being said, I wear my hair up at work, so I am only a shedding problem in my own living space :) And I certainly have met dogs that shed far more than I do.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          My friends cats all can jump onto a 4 ft + high counter top to food surf. That’s from a sit on the floor jump, not a running leap.

          They tried to train the cat to stay off, but you know…cats. They aren’t Border Collies. The kitchens have no doors, so the cats bide their time to do fun cat stuff.

          I have pets. I have relatives who will eat nothing I prepare because of animals in the house. It’s the fact that animals are in there.
          I’ve two cage birds and a small dog. The birds are no where near the kitchen, and the dog is under 12 inches in height.

          I’ve met mean people with similar issues. That’s why potlucks are so dicey. Sheila has cats, forget the cupcakes.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heh, you’re probably fine. I mean, I hope you knew you were fine before you brought your buddy with you!

      1. Tigger*

        Lol I am the only one in the front office today. The warehouse guys don’t seem to mind.

  9. Kay*

    This is a great answer for most of the dog questions the blog gets… but I think it’s a bit of a miss for this one. “You need to be able to make a dog free public area” okay, so the letter already says that even being on the same floor as a dog she will not see makes Jane cry. So we already know that suggested solution is already put in place and not working. And the answer says “being in a coworking space makes it more complicated” but then just ignores that? I understand that this answer is trying to be more broadly applicable, but instead of the same dog answer we’ve read a ton of times before I would be much more interested in an answer that tackles the piece of this that is actually new—the coworking space. Especially as they become more and more common, why not talk about what options and strategies people have when other businesses have competing needs or policies and the coworking space landlord is under no legal obligation to accommodate anyone?

    1. Dragoning*

      This brings up the fact that, uh, I’m not sure it’s entirely sanitary for a dog to be in the communal public kitchen area even if Jane wouldn’t see it. I would be kind of grossed out, to be honest.

      1. Temperance*

        These aren’t real kitchens, typically – just a microwave and a coffeemaker. And from this site, we know that office kitchens tend to be nasty in general.

        1. serenity*

          You’ve said that elsewhere, but it’s not widely accurate, sorry! And having dogs near or around where food is being microwaved – whether the food is covered or not – is also pretty unsanitary.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Ok I see this argument but what is with this (seemingly very American – I say as an American) need to have everything be basically sterile? Have you never lived in a home with a pet? They go wherever they want. And everyone is fine!

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            You do know people are unsanitary right? Unless the dog is licking the dishes before you use them, you’re good.

    2. SignalLost*

      The coworking space is absolutely under legal obligation to address ADA issues, including this. Alison is clarifying her answer.

      1. Anna*

        That’s not necessarily true and Alison addresses that further up. The building has to provide ADA access, but it’s less clear if they have to provide other accommodations like completely changing the dog policy, something that probably makes it a very attractive space to businesses.

      2. Creag an Tuire*

        Is the co-working space under any ADA obligation, though, or is just that the company is still obligated to follow the ADA regardless?

        And as a follow-up, if the other participants in co-working refuse to change their policies, is there any reasonable accommodation that can be made other than “Let Jane work from home and take steps to ensure she isn’t retaliated against for doing so”? (IANAL but I feel like requiring the company to uproot the whole office into another space would be struck down under the “undue hardship” exemption of the ADA.)

        1. Observer*

          In a significant percentage of cases, it most definitely would be. Moving out of your space is NOT a simple thing, and always has costs. Sometimes those costs are significant.

    3. Ellen*

      The crying may also have been a function of the day. I’ve had those days, I’m sure others have, too, where it isnt so much the DOG or the MOVE TO A NEW SPACE or the getting used to being around new coworkers wh are not co workers, but all of that and a hundred other things, but the dog just happened to be on top of the pile and oh, gosh, what if I have to pee and it woods at me and am I an awful person for not wanting this and… the phobia is very real, and the tears no less so, but as a phobic person, some days I can, and some days I just cant.

  10. RUKiddingMe*

    Two cents:

    About 35 years ago I was attacked and bitten by a dog…completely unprovoked. I will save you all the details of a very long story, but it was yeeeaaarrrsss before I didn’t cross the street to avoid even a tiny dog. Before that I always had dogs and said hi to all and sundry.

    Even all these years layer I am super cautious near them and give them a wide berth. The fear (i.e. terror) is real. I would choose to quit a job rather than work in a fog friendly place even though in principle I like them.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I never do. I live by the water specifically because of the fog. Well that and other reasons but it’s a very big part of my reason to live somewhere this freaking expensive.

    1. Wing Leader*

      I really don’t understand the “a dog bit me and now I’m scared forever!” mindset. A dog bit me too once. It latched onto my fingers and hand and drew some blood. My grandfather had to bandage me up. And…I’m not afraid of dogs at all. Never have been. It was just one jerk dog that bit me, not all dogs that ever existed.

      1. Dragoning*

        PTSD is a real thing. Just because something doesn’t traumatize every person doesn’t mean it doesn’t traumatize some.

        I also know a handful of people who came very close. to being killed by dogs and one who nearly lost her eye to one when she was young. It’s not always a “grandpa had to bandage me up!” situation.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Thank you for this!

          This sounds so much like just more of the same old “well I’ve never experienced so it can’t be real” stuff.

      2. Observer*

        That’s a totally un-helpful response. RUKiddingMe could jsut as easily turn this around. “I don’t understand why people who have been viciously attacked by dogs are not terrified by them. I was attacked by a seemingly well behaved dog and it scarred for life! After all, how do they know another supposedly well behaved dog won’t to that?”

        The bottom line is that “This happened to me and I reacted in THIS way means that people who react differently make no sense” is neither kind, useful nor sensible.

      3. WellRed*

        I imagine it’s a bit of PTSD (I am not trying to use that lightly). at any rate, people are allowed to feel how they feel.

      4. Pizza Boi*

        Hey, we all have different responses to things. Let’s not minimize other people’s experiences here. It’s good that you didn’t feel traumatized by what happened to you but that is just not how everyone’s brain works.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Fair enough. Obviously other people respond differently. I was just saying that I don’t understand the fear, in the same way that I don’t understand how so many people like sushi (blech).

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I get that it doesn’t make sense to you, but saying “I don’t understand xyz” comes off with an implied judgement of xyz being wrong, stupid or some other bad connotation. I love sushi, but I understand that others don’t for various reasons health concerns, texture, taste (we all have different taste preferences), smell , and I’m sure other reasons I’m not thinking of right now.

      5. mark132*

        That works for you. And in this case for me. I’ve been bitten by dogs and I still like dogs. But just because that works for us doesn’t mean it works for everyone. And in other areas I have very unreasonable fears as well that most people here would probably not have.

        1. mark132*

          This is not to imply that RUKiddingMe’s fear is unreasonable. I’m speaking only for myself

      6. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’s OK not to understand it for your own reactions – just accept it for other people’s.

      7. Red 5*

        There’s a really, really, really vast range of interactions encompassed by “a dog bit me” that you are super discounting here.

        I knew someone who had a friend’s dog immediately meet her and latch onto her face in a way that not only required multiple reconstructive surgeries but also was permanently disfiguring (albeit in a small way). I’ve known people who were attacked as very small children when your brain isn’t processing the world in the same way that an adult brain does. I was bit by a dog as an adult and the dog didn’t even latch on, it just more or less slammed it’s teeth into me and ran away, and I still ended up in the ER (when I had no health insurance, that was fun). Not to mention that it’s not like a person really gets to pick which situations in their life cause what specific mental reactions. I’ve been in multiple car accidents of various severity and I have no problems with cars. Other people I know have had a car accident trigger PTSD (which is not at all as uncommon as you might think) and it’s not like either of us consciously said “this is how I’m going to deal with this situation that happened to me moving forward.”

        It would be worth remembering that the sentence “I was bit by a dog” tells you so little that if you’re making any kind of value judgement about the person’s reaction to it, then that’s all you projecting and nothing to do with them.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Oh the car accident thing! I’ve never been driving when an accident occurred (knock on wood) but I’ve been with others who were and every single one of them rear ended the car in front. Ergo I have a paranoa of anyone I’m riding with driving close to the car in front of them. It’s never going away, I just don’t let it show…much.

          There is a certain chimpanzee who *hates* *hates* *hates* me. I didn’t want to play a game with him one day and he decided I was not longer his best friend. He yells at me (in chimpanzee speak) whenever he sees me. Other chimpanzees however…no problem after I get to know them/they get to know me. I have a friend that has a similar issue with a particular gorilla. He hates her with the fury of a million suns. Other gorillas though, so far none seem to have an issue with her, including that guy’s family members. Go figure. Dogs however…let’s just say a chimpanzee has never attacked me.

          And thanks everyone for the support over my dog PTSD issues. You guys rock.:-D

        2. FoxyDog*

          Agreed. I used to travel by airplane regularly. Until a plane crashed on the way into the airport I normally flew out of. It was a pretty big news story at the time, there were no survivors. I wasn’t on the plane, I didn’t know anybody on the plane, it still scared me enough to where I’m terrified of flying nearly 20 years later. I’ve flown multiple times since then without incident. Still terrified. Fear is weird and absolutely not logical.

      8. Delphine*

        What do you say to people who have phobias of things they’ve never experienced? It’s really common to be afraid of things that have caused you trauma in the past and to be afraid of things that you imagine may cause trauma if you encountered them in the future.

        1. EH*

          You offer support and sympathy. Phobias aren’t rational and AFAIK cannot be caused or cured by logic.

          Some phobias can be traced back to specific incidents, but plenty can’t. Doesn’t make them less real.

      9. RUKiddingMe*

        I’m glad that you didn’t have any long lasting effects. Not everyone reacts the same way however.

        I was gonna save the long story, but…

        Husband and I were walking down the sidewalk in a totally public area. Dog left its garage, ran down the driveway at full speed, ran around my husband and bit me, hard on the ass. I fell and the dog lunged towards my throat/face but was (thankfully!!!) stopped by my husband. I needed more than a bandaid, a lot more.

        It was a ~100 pound dog. At the time I weighed ~115 pounds. So it was a vicious animal, hell bent on hurting *me* for some reason, that possessed sharp teeth (as had already been demonstrated amply TYVM) and claws that could do real, serious damage to places more conspicuous than my ass, and weighed pretty much the same as I did.

        It turned out that the dog was under order to be restrained because I was not his first victim. The owner however…was more than a little lax in being responsible.

        So yeah it wasn’t just the dog randomly bit a couple of fingers it was a full on personal attack that he wasn’t inclined to cease after the initial damage. Left to his own devices (i.e. not restrained by my husband) I believed then and believe now that he would have killed me. So yeah the PTSD about dogs, particularly dogs I don’t know, is real.

        1. fposte*

          To be clear, PTSD doesn’t necessarily correlate to the seriousness of the attack, either. It doesn’t make the PTSD any less real or respectable if you were chased by a playful Chihuahua and your brain just freaked out.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh agreed. I was just explaining what happened and how it affected me. I was actually actively hated by a chihuahua once. It belonged to the people I babysat fir (many years before the dig bite). I persisted and eventually he became my little buddy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      10. some dude*

        I had a dog nearly take my knee off 20 years ago. I was fine (large, scary dog barked and put his mouth around my knee but didn’t bite) and I’m pretty darn scared of dogs to this day and would be pretty bummed if I had to work around them. And I’m an old man now, who likes dogs, but I’m still afraid of them.

  11. OP*

    Hey! OP here. Since I wrote the original email a decision has been made that anybody who wants to bring an animal into the office needs to put it into the office calendar at least 48 hours in advance, the thinking being, presumably that Jane can check calendars and work from home if they’ll be here. Works to an extent but does seem to be a case of human accommodating dogs rather than vice versa.

      1. KHB*

        I can see it working as long as people aren’t bringing in dogs so frequently that it effectively becomes “Jane has to work from home always, oh well.”

        1. KHB*

          (And it does nothing to address the possible problem of other people bringing dogs into the space.)

        2. Clisby*

          Yeah, I think the idea of designating a couple of regularly scheduled “dog days” (like every Tuesday and Thursday) a week is better. However, that wouldn’t take care of the other office.

        3. Batman*

          Yeah, this actually seems kind of problematic to me. What if Jane can’t or doesn’t want to work from home on the same day someone wants to bring their dog in?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      That sounds like a good way to handle it! Worth watching to make sure Jane isn’t missing out on any meetings or events because of it (including Friday drinks), but seems reasonable.

    2. Andy*

      y’all are being really nice to Jane about this. Thank you. I had a friend w major dog fears in college and she was totally harassed by a couple of animal lovers who just COULD NOT imagine why a person might be afraid of dogs. Friend eventually came around and started fostering bully-breeds who were also in a fear state of mind and is such an angel with those doggies. It was a slow transition, but def wouldn’t have happened if her fears weren’t accommodated until she was in a better place and could think about dogs in a new way.

      1. Blue Bunny*

        While I appreciate your message, saying she “came around” implies that she finally saw the light and made the ‘correct’ decision. It isn’t wrong or illogical to be afraid of animals that can seriously harm you, particularly if you’ve witnessed or experienced it personally.

        1. Courageous cat*

          This seems unusually nitpicky. Especially because dogs are extremely common in this world, so it does somewhat benefit a person to not be scared of all of them – it’s very different from something like sharks in that way.

      2. zapateria la bailarina*

        i disagree…. they’re forcing jane to adjust her schedule around what is convenient for the dog-owners, when it SHOULD be the opposite. the dog-owners already have the option to spend time with their dog/save costs on petsitters/walkers/etc by working from home. i think they should be the ones required to check jane’s schedule to see if it’s ok to bring the dog in to the office on a certain day.

        also, it’s clear that the entire office is now aware of jane’s phobia – was it known prior to moving to a dog-friendly coworking space? i think if a business plans on moving into a dog-friendly space, they need to be up-front with employees about it and have these discussions and make these decisions before even agreeing to the lease – possibly even make the decision that they shouldn’t move into a dog-friendly space.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “i think they should be the ones required to check jane’s schedule to see if it’s ok to bring the dog in to the office on a certain day.”


        2. Lissa*

          on the other hand if there’s anyone else in the office who prefers not to have dogs around but isn’t enough afraid of them to feel it’s an accommodation issue, they can also see if the dogs will be there.

          Personally I’d prefer a “dogs only on Monday/Wednesday” and then Jane could be especially accommodated by making sure those are convenient days for Jane to work remotely.

      3. ValkyrAmy*

        The harassment by dog lovers is real. No one can understand why I wouldn’t love their good boy/girl! Am I a monster?

        Or was I savaged by a dog when I was 10 (i.e. 32 years ago), an attack that probably should’ve landed me in the ER (but the dog owner/my babysitter decided not to do that and for some reason it never got treated with anything more than iodine and bandages), and left me scarred for life. Service dogs are about the only dogs I can stand to be around even now without feeling physically uncomfortable/hyperventilatey. (It’s a word.)

        I’ve quit temp jobs before when I found out I was walking into a dog-friendly office. And I wouldn’t hesitate to walk out on my job now if people started bringing their pets to work. I hates dogs. HATES.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know — what if Jane needs to be at the office for a meeting? Jane really needs to be accommodated here, not just the people bringing in dogs.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Yeah… I just feel like this says “Bringin’ my dog in, deal with it!” whenever people want. Rather than understanding that there’s a person who actually has to be at work sometimes.

      2. annalisakarenina*

        I agree. I suggested giving Jane (and others who do not want to work near dogs) more “work from home” flexibility, but this is a really good point.

      3. Wing Leader*

        I think Jane has been accommodated enough. What about if someone who was hired had a phobia of the number 13? So, now every time a document has the number 13 on it, this new hire must have her eyes shielded and be escorted out of the room until she can calm down? It sounds ridiculous, but it’s a real phobia as much as this dog phobia is.

        So that leads to the question (for me anyway)…how far should we go to accommodate phobias? I mean, a person could claim to have a phobia of literally anything.

        1. KHB*

          If they hire someone with a phobia of the number 13, then they cross that bridge when they come to it. The ADA (as I understand it) doesn’t require employers to preemptively accommodate every condition that somebody somewhere might have, just the ones that people who actually work there actually do have.

          1. MassMatt*

            Your reductio ad absurdism is fostered partly by the discussion of whether the ADA would apply in this issue, which is beside the point. As Alison made clear in her answer, people’s ability to do their work needs to take precedence over dogs in the office. This is true regardless of whether someone is allergic, had a dog phobia, or is just distracted by dogs.

            Work trumps dogs.

          2. MayLou*

            Interestingly the corresponding legislation in the UK does require organisations to proactively accommodate people… Theoretically. In practice it’s almost impossible to enforce and you have to demonstrate that you were actually affected (so I can’t bring a case on behalf of my wheelchair-using wife, she has to do it) and even then almost no cases have made it through court so it’s a toothless law. Technically though, the duty is anticipatory.

        2. Pizza Boi*

          This is more than a little disingenuous. Employers need only accommodate their employees, not every possible phobia.

          And to give a real answer: they would have to enter a collaborative process with the employee to see what reasonable accommodations can be made. But that is only if the phobia is covered by the ADA, which is a different discovery process.

          I find in most of these accommodations slippery slope rebuttals we gloss over the fact that there is a defined process for ensuring that the employee in question truly needs accommodations and that the efforts the employer goes to are not undue hardships.

          1. Red 5*

            “This is more than a little disingenuous.”


            This exact kind of statement, “but what if somebody is afraid of paper clips huh?” is EXACTLY why I don’t disclose my phobias to like 99% of the people I know. Because a good amount of the time when I finally say “listen, could you just…not do that, it’s something that makes me uncomfortable” people start this argument. And I’ve never seen it be something that’s coming from anything but a desire to be combative and self-focused. If I was afraid of paper clips for some weird reason, and I asked my co-workers “hey, could you just use these binder clips when you send me reports? Or even go digital, that might be easier for both of us really…” and they came back with “OMG, what next, do we have to accommodate every little thing? When does it end? Isn’t it YOUR problem that you don’t like paper clips?” that would tell me a lot about that co-worker, and none of it would be about them having a genuine desire to work on a workplace issue.

            1. Pizza Boi*


              That is the attitude in most kitchens I have worked in and it is a huge reason that while I am in between jobs right now I try and get a good sense of the culture of each place and how they might react to a request for reasonable accommodations. Not even because I usually need them but because I don’t want to work in places run by “whatabout-ists.”

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Exactly. And ok let’s say someone has a paperclip phobia (it’s probably a real thing). The ADA says the employer has to accommodate as long as it’s not an undue hardship. It might be an office where papers needing to be clipped (as opposed to stapled) is a *thing* ergo accommodating that could be considered “undue hardship.”

              1. fposte*

                If you mean “a legal requirement for documents” when you say “thing,” that would be an immovable obstacle; if you mean just that it’s the general practice there, I doubt a judge would be moved by an office’s skittishness about staplers. However, in most workplaces I know there’s just too much external office material coming in to viably make an office paperclip-free. But the next question would be whether the paperclip-phobic employee could be accommodated by WFH.

        3. Samwise*

          You can’t just ” claim” to have a phobia. Employees have to have their disability appropriately documented and then employers have to work with them to come up with reasonable accommodations.

          If Jane has a documented disability and has requested ADA accommodations, then the employer has to work with her to find a reasonable accommodation. And thus, in this case Jane may not be “accommodated enough”. Certainly pointing to “ridiculous” what-ifs is not a helpful response to *this* situation. And that’s the point — it’s situational, it depends on the needs of the employee and the obligations of the employer.

          Sorry to sound testy about this, but the ADA is *civil rights legislation*. It aims to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the workplace due to their disabilities, and to ensure that employers do not make it hard or impossible for people with disabilities to do their jobs.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            But this is another part of the answer — does Jane have a disability that is subject to ADA accommodations, or is she just garden variety “afraid of dogs”?

            I don’t think companies are obligated to cater to any fear, strong dislike, etc. that any employee has. If Jane had a fear of working above the ground floor, the company wouldn’t be required to relocate to a ground floor space. (Again assuming that this isn’t an ADA matter.) I really dislike the way my cubicle is oriented, and I have good reasons for this which would be easily explained to others. My company isn’t required to relocate me to a different work area, change how the cubicles are set up, or re-design the office around the fact that some people got stuck with crap cubicles that are oriented such that everyone is always sneaking up on them from behind.

            As far as I can see, if Jane has a documented disability wherein ADA accommodation would be relevant, then the company should accommodate that in whatever way satisfies those requirements. If Jane does not have a disability but is just afraid of/dislikes dogs very strongly, then aside from some reasonable workarounds (which I think advance notice is, also working with her to come up with an area she is comfortable working in when there are unavoidable dogs), there’s no requirement and this may require a bit of compromise from Jane as well as from everyone else.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Actually, in some cases your company would be required to do those things.

              There’s a lot of misinformation about the ADA being stated as fact here!

              1. doreen*

                I think Working Mom is pointing out that there is a difference between a “phobia” and a simple fear/dislike of something. I don’t think my employer would be required to change my cubicle if I disliked having people come up on me from behind- but they probably would be required to if I had a panic attack when someone approached me from the rear.

                Although the way the OP describes Jane, it seems closer to a phobia than just fear/dislike

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Except that Jane shouldn’t have to accommodate others’ desire to bring their dogs to work. The dog owners need to accommodate the employee who may need/want to be in the office on certain days. So instead of Jane needing to check if people plan to bring in their dogs, the onus should be on others to check if Jane, who unlike the dogs is an actual employee, plans to be in on any given day.

              Let’s be honest here. Would we be all “Jane must check my plans to bring in my children” if it was a kid friendly office where people could save money on childcare because kids are allowed into yet another place they don’t belong? Unlikely. But mention dogs…well then if they can bring in their dogs, I want to bring in all five of my cats.

              1. Lissa*

                You’re definitely right that people lose their minds when it comes to dogs – I’ve had a coworker start giving me the icy treatment because I said I wasn’t a huge fan of them! It’s super odd.

                That said I absolutely do think we’d have people saying exactly that if it was a child-friendly office. People get just as irrational about thinking their kid is perfect as they do think their dog is perfect. Especially when most people here ARE on Jane’s side, it’s just a few “but what if someone was afraid of …” outliers, so I think we’d see the same kind of thing if it was about kids (or perfume, or any other thing.)

            3. NerdyKris*

              If she’s being reduced to tears because a dog is in the building, it’s not just “garden variety afraid of dogs”.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh but certainly making it so that Jane has to work at home on days people want to bring in their dogs is enough already? I mean what does she want anyway? To be treated like a real person…a valuable member of the staff? She’s been accommodated enough. Even though she’s never actually complained, if she can’t handle having animals in the office that is not like an animal shelter or a pet store, well then…maybe she just doesn’t need to work here huh?

            /s <–just in case

        4. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “What about if someone who was hired had a phobia of the number 13?”

          Trying to understand your point in this. Are you arguing that phobias should never be considered a disability, even if they otherwise meet the standards for disability in the ADA? Are you saying only some phobias should be considered a disability if they meet ADA standards but only if you or some group decide it is a sensible phobia? Are you saying you don’t like the idea of disability accommodations for disabilities generally?

          Those aren’t snarky comments – I’m just confused. You’re responding to a post about a person with a dog phobia and comments suggesting solutions with a “oh hey what if” of the most outlandish phobia you can dream up. Why?

          1. Wing Leader*

            I’m making the point about how phobias, no matter what they are, are inherently ridiculous.

            I say this as a person with phobias. I have a sweat-inducing fear of spiders. I’m also trypophobic (google it if you must, but beware of the pictures).

            But those are my problems, not everyone else’s. My best friend in college had a pet tarantula. I hated that thing, but I didn’t order her to get rid of it because it bothered me (and I wouldn’t do it at a workplace either).

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Phobias are irrational, absolutely. That’s in the very definition.

              But *if* the phobia is severe enough to be classified as a disability, then it is covered by the ADA, and so it doesn’t matter whether you think businesses somehow shouldn’t have to address it or that the phobia is silly – if it is a disability, the ADA applies. If it isn’t severe enough to be a disability, plenty of business would want to work out a compromise anyway, simply because they *value their employees* and compromising so that your valued employees can come in to work and be productive is a good thing.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              Okay, so the curiosity got to me and I googled “trypophobic” and couldn’t understand the horror at all—and then I got to the video of the Surinam toad. Pretty cool nightmare fuel, that one.

          2. JSPA*

            Sounds like they missed the REASONABLE in reasonable accommodations. No, documents can’t all be printed without a page 13. Text can’t have 13’s removed, nor can sales figures.

            But if someone is in graphic design without a text component (e.g.) it might be reasonable to send those early stage graphics around only in sections of 10 pages (plus cover sheet) or smaller and not schedule their meetings on the 13th of the month.

            It would require CONVERSATION.

            Which, by the way, is also what’s missing here. Is Jane actually desirous of fighting her phobia? Would she perhaps actively welcome paid habituation therapy? Does the smell of dogs set her off? Sound? Sight? The knowledge they’re in the building?

            Are all dogs equal, or is a toy dog less (or more) triggering than a larger dog? Is a crated dog OK? Crated and draped? Could she cope if there were nanny cams pointed down the hall, so she can repeatedly check that there are no dogs coming for her? Is it OK if she has a caged in cubicle with a locking door, and a promise that dogs will be crated in locked crates between certain hours? I’ve seen a grown man drop in a faint upon seeing a cat through a window, so I don’t want to assume that any of this is possible. But a dog that feels both safe and under control and securely behind doors to the dog owner (e.g. leashed in the kitchen) may feel dangerously loose to someone phobic. So it may not be “on the same floor,” per se, but rather, “loose, as far as my phobia is concerned, on my floor.”

            Animal phobias can be extreme, and include seeing a picture, or even thinking about the animal in question. From personal experience, it’s no fun being kicked awake by a phobic spouse who’s having nightmares from being too close to, or too aware, of their phobia object at some point during the day. It’s presumably worse for the spouse. And it happens even if they’ve been able to work through being in the presence of the trigger, in the daylight. You really can’t know unless you ask Jane, and work with Jane, on finding out what works for her.

        5. caryatis*

          The difference is that numbers are part of a normal office environment, and dogs are not. No one *needs* to bring their dog to work. They choose to have a dog; the phobic person did not have a choice.

          1. Washi*

            This is what I keep getting stuck on. I just can’t fully wrap my brain around feeling entitled to bring my pet to work because it would be fun for me.

            I used to keep pet rats – why can’t I bring them to work with me? They are caged and arguably would be a lot less distracting than dogs.

            But I understand that 1) work is for work not taking care of my pets and 2) even though I think rats are delightful, not everyone agrees. I truly do not understand the entitlement that makes someone think that their dog’s needs are more important than not terrifying their coworker.

            1. Just Jess*

              There are a lot of people who view work as a way to make money and to be around a social network. There are even more people who are happy to go someplace regularly and participate in something. Finally, how many people care deeply and passionately about the mission of their particular employer at the moment?

              It’s not surprising that people are more worried about losing a perk than limiting a productive co-worker. High productivity isn’t the point of work for some people.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              I’ve had pet rats. They are wonderful. I agree that if they can bring in their dogs, I should bring in my cats. All five of them.

              1. JSPA*

                Cats use a litter box. Dogs in many places need a person to let them out and walk them, so they can relieve themselves. Cats or rats is really not equivalent; we’re potentially talking hundreds of dollars a month in dog walker fees. I wonder if a block rental at a nearby kennel, or an on-site kennel where people can get their dog and take a lunchtime walk, would be a good alternative perq.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Kids take hundreds of dollars a month in childcare fees. Fortunately they don’t get to spend their days in most offices. Choose to have a dog, consider the expense of dog walkers/daycare as SOP. Don’t impose them on everyone else.

                2. Rumbakalao*

                  But that’s the thing here. They’re not imposing them on everyone else. The company offered a perk and they’re taking advantage of it. We’ve seen one or two letters in identical or similar circumstances where an employee has taken the job specifically because of an advertised perk. We don’t know how long it’s been since they moved or if anyone else has come on board since then. The same would be true if a company was offering on-site daycare, and then someone complained that they hate kids and the perk got taken away. You’d have many upset employees there too. It’s pretty inconsiderate to brush off what the dog owners/dog lovers are saying just because you personally don’t care for them.

                  And for what its worth, at this point everyone knows Jane is the one who is very must Against Dogs. It’s going to be very difficult if not impossible to get rid of the dog-friendly office without people blaming Jane for it- maybe (hopefully) not vocally or with any kind of retaliation- but you can bet you’ll end up with a lot of unhappy employees.

          2. Clisby*

            Yes! I suppose it’s possible that somebody has a phobia about using the English alphabet, but at least in an English-speaking office, I can’t think of any reasonable accommodation that could be made to mitigate it. Dogs are not in the same league.

        6. A Person*

          Wasn’t there even a letter once where someone was demanding their coworkers change something about their appearance for symmetry due to their OCD?

          I think it all comes back to whether the accommodation is reasonable. Dogs are still not allowed in many offices so when it’s about dogs, people always say removing the dogs is reasonable because you can do your office job without a dog present. (I wish my office allowed dogs, it would make my day better!)

          I don’t think anyone could make that case about the number 13.

        7. PollyQ*

          In addition to the good points people have made, a business *can’t* avoid the number 13, but this particular company’s work doesn’t have any professional connection to dogs, so it could easily remove dogs from its workplace and continue doing its day-to-day business with no changes required.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yup. That falls under the “reasonable accommodation” thing. I can’t even believe someone would ask about number 13. Oh wait, I’ve been on the internet for decades so yes, yes I actually can believe it. There’s always someone with an absurd argument/comment.

        8. Beth*

          Yes, people can have phobias of pretty much anything. That’s not ridiculous; it’s generally an artifact of either a past trauma or a brain doing a weird thing (which happens sometimes!). Whether a given phobia can be accommodated depends on the job and the phobia (Jane would not probably be able to work as a dog groomer, for example; someone with a phobia of the number 13 would not be able to work as an accountant; but in both cases, there are jobs that don’t center around the object of the phobia, and which probably could reasonably accommodate them).

          If Jane’s phobia rises to the level of a disability–which hasn’t been stated one way or another in the original letter, but from the description it sure sounds like it might–then the next step is to go through the PROCESS of finding reasonable accommodations. Note the word ‘process’; there isn’t a clear-cut “if this, then that” rule here, where “if phobia, then company has to immediately remove all exposure” necessarily follows. It’s individualized, depending on the disability involved, the individual’s needs to function in the workplace, the job duties required of that specific position, and a bunch of other factors.

          If the company has done that process and determined that legally they’ve met their duty, then they’ve done enough. If they haven’t done that process, then they really need to, legally speaking–even if some people feel like “Jane has been accommodated enough.”

        9. some dude*

          I see it more analogous to…

          If there were an office that managed commercial property where most people are super into death metal (or reggaton, or high energy dance music), and they dug blasting it at work. And then Myron the new project manager starts, and he HATES death metal and says that listening to Death and Tomb Mold and Coffin Birth all day is driving him nuts and he can’t concentrate.

          Since death metal has zero to do with the work of the company, and is making it hard for an employee to do their job, and is not standard in any professional environment, maybe the death metal needs to go and not the employee.

    4. JHunz*

      That seems very much like a non-solution. What if Jane’s boss tells her she needs to come in for a meeting? Are they going to make her go through the calendar for everyone who has a dog day listed and tell them they can’t bring it in?

      1. Samwise*

        I’d think it was on the boss or on the office admin to do that. Making Jane do it is not reasonable.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, I don’t like that. I mean, I get the intent, but I don’t like the method. It should be the opposite. If Jane has a meeting that pops up 24 hours in advance, or if she needs to change her schedule around for any reason, she needs to get priority.

      And honestly, the same goes for the dog owner. If I put in the calendar that I’m bringing my bud in on Wednesday and Jane changed her schedule to Thursday even though Wednesday makes more sense for her, then I end up with an appointment on Wednesday so I don’t bring the dog after all… that just doesn’t work. I am a dog person and I used to work in an office where I could (and did) bring my dog, and I don’t like the idea that the person has to base her schedule on the dog’s.

      1. OP*

        That’s what I’m a bit uncomfortable with too – in practice a LOT of Jane’s work is remote or at other office locations so I think it feels a bit like she’s hardly here anyway so why bother? But it is still her office location, she does still have mandatory meetings that require her to be here, and there is already a bit of an us-and-them vibe between the department Jane works for (which is managed nationally) and the rest of the office who are part of the same regional team.

        If Jane stops coming in a lot, or never comes to Friday drinks her immediate colleagues are going to rally around her and start going for separate drinks etc., which already goes on a bit, and that rift which does have the potential to damage our overall work is going to widen.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          I think this is an important clarification, because on the one hand I think the ADA would be satisfied with saying “the most reasonable accommodation is let Jane conference call in to her meetings and otherwise not require her to come into the building”, but you’re trying to go above and beyond that for the good of organizational culture (which is good!)

          Could you just host your own “Friday drinks” at the nearby bar and ignore the event put on by the building? Don’t even make it about the dogs, just say “We wanted an event for our own folks to get together and decompress”.

          (Also, if you can end this “co-working” arrangement in the near future, it honestly sounds like a dumpster fire for a lot of reasons besides doggos.)

          1. Samwise*

            ADA would not necessarily say “conference call” is good — the employee and the employer have to work together to hammer out a reasonable accommodation and in this case, it sounds like “conference call” is not going to cut it every time.

        2. A person*

          If Jane has mandatory meetings that require her to be present it seems like a better idea for Jane to post on the calendar in advance when she’s going to be there so others don’t plan to bring their dogs that day – not the other way around.

        3. a good mouse*

          Why can’t Jane put on the calendar with 24 hour notice that she plans to come in and dog people can know whether they can bring their dogs based on that?

          1. OP*

            I agree, but given that Jane hasn’t complained / could well not be the only person with an issue with dogs in the office anyway, I think the idea around scheduling the dogs on the calendar is so that this is just an office wide rule and not a Jane-specific rule.

            I think the idea a few people have put forward about having a couple of designated dog-friendly days is probably the best one – means people don’t have to speak up about not wanting to be around pets if they don’t want to and that they can’t be pushed out of the office all of the time as a result.

            Won’t help if we end up with lots of dogs in the buildings as the rest of the co-working area fills up, but for now its at relatively low occupancy so will go quite a long way.

            1. ag47*

              It also sounds like you have multiple floors so you could possibly even divide it by floor depending on the desk situation. I think you’re probably going to have to ban dogs from the happy hour, though, to make sure that social even stays open to everyone. (Dog-owners can opt out of happy hour and stay on the other floor or not bring their dogs that day).

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                It doesn’t seem like her company has the power to ban dogs from any of the coworking spaces – which includes wherever the drinks are and the kitchens and bathrooms – so I don’t think they can do this. I think all they can do is ask their own employees to keep dogs away from Jane.

      2. jf*

        Yeah, a lot of this seems completely backward. If working from home is such an option, why do they need to accommodate the dogs at all? I know we’ve not *totally* adopted “dog owner” as a protected class, but those people can work from home when they can’t find dog sitters or walkers or whatever, and if they find themselves missing opportunities they can adjust their lifestyles accordingly. I guess I just find the treatment of Jane here appalling.

        1. Roscoe*

          In fairness, we don’t really know the roles of these people. In some companies, certain departments can work remotely while others can’t. Jane may be able to while others aren’t

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          The problem is that dogs are going to be in the office weather this company allows them or not. So something needs to be figured out that will work for Jane and doesn’t impose on people who don’t work for this company.

    6. Triangle Pose*

      What about the other companies that share your co-working space? I assume they don’t share a calendar and if they bring their dogs on any day then what? Doesn’t seem to solve for that.

    7. Alexander Graham Yell*

      “Human accommodating dogs” sounds about right – and still problematic. I just feel like it shouldn’t be on Jane to plan her work scheduled around the dogs. Jane is an employee, the dogs are…dogs. Her ability to go into the office to do actual work should trump having Fido in the office (I say this as somebody with a 73lb lab next to me on the couch – not anti-dog at all!).
      Ultimately, I would say the company needs a backup plan. This coworking space does not seem like a great fit for the whole company, and while I know it’s probably not reasonable to assume that they knew about her phobia before the move, now they know. It seems deeply unreasonable to me to force this kind of fear on somebody, especially when this wasn’t something she could have known when she took the job. (I’m not a fan of having people self-select out of offices based on this kind of perk, but in this case she didn’t even have that option. To keep the job she’s had, she suddenly has to confront a major fear. This is like being terrified of flying and suddenly being told that to continue doing the job that never required flying before will now mean your commute is via plane.)

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I think this is a good argument for companies being more open with employees during the process of finding a new work location. Everywhere I’ve ever worked has kept a move a big secret and then done a big reveal once all the contracts were signed. Like it doesn’t affect us that you are moving us 20 miles away. Be open about what the options are and listen to feedback!

    8. Mystery Bookworm*

      I dunno. I’m a fan of dogs in the office, personally, but I think this really shifts the burden on to Jane to work around people’s pets schedules rather than her own office schedule. What if she needs to meet with someone personally, or run an errand near the office?

      I think the pet owners should have the burden of organizing around her, not the other way around.

    9. Amber Rose*

      Maybe adjust to also say no dogs at all on Fridays, so Jane can be part of Friday drinks?

    10. CheshireBoxx*

      So if Jane needs to come in for a meeting less than 24 hours in advance, what’s the procedure? Is she supposed to send an email to everyone bringing their dogs in and tell them not to?

    11. Stanley Nickels*

      I feel bad for Jane still. The onus is on her to accommodate herself, and if she NEEDS to come in for a meeting on a day when a dog is scheduled, she has to be the one to address it and look like the “bad guy” for kicking a dog out when she’s just trying to get her work done.

      Has anyone talked to Jane about it, since you said she hasn’t complained? Wondering what her true feelings are and what would more realistically be a solution for her to be able to work in the office whenever she needs.

    12. Antilles*

      That’s a fairly reasonable solution for all, I think.
      Though it’s worth making sure that people realize/accept that if something comes up where Jane *needs* to be in the office for (e.g., company meeting or whatever) on a specific day, that overrides the pre-scheduled “oh but I signed up two weeks ago for Friday to be a dog day before we knew Jane would be here.”

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Well, right now, the solution your office has landed on puts the entire burden on Jane. So while you feel you are not singling her out, you (general you, not you you) are requiring her to juggle everything on her own.

          That’s not really reasonable. What if she has a business need to be in the office, but someone claimed the day as a dog day? She has to come in and be around a dog all day, or she has to contact the dog owner and tell that person about her business need to come in, and her phobia, and can you please not bring the dog – so she’d be singled out and also placed in a very, very awkward position. Either way she hasn’t really been accommodated. This may be a good “for now” solution, but it just isn’t going to be sustainable.

        2. Amy*

          You’re already singling her out. Other co workers now get to decide what days she is allowed to access her own office. Her work and career are now controlled by other co worker’s pets. I’d plan to quit in that situation.

    13. Nanani*

      That’s great until you hire someone else with a phobia, or an allergy.

      And yeah, Jane should not have to work around dogs which -were not part of the deal she signed up for-

      I would be cash she’s already updated her resume, and may not be the only one, just the most visible/extreme case.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed. If I worked for OP’s company, I’d be updating my resume and job hunting tout suite — not because I have a phobia, but because I don’t really like dogs and would find them enormously distracting. Much less visible than Jane, but still outtie 5000.

    14. Laura H.*

      It’s a start, not a surefire solution.

      I would second the idea of semi- regular “dog days” and “Dog Free Days”- ones when the important people and guests come into the company.

      Also, find a way for Jane to make similar provisions on the calendar within a similar timeframe (with the understanding from all parties that entirely blocking each other- dog or no dog- should be avoided when possible.)

  12. Emily K*

    Dear AAM, my boss’s dog keeps burning microwave popcorn in the office, but when we’ve complained our boss only sees her perfect angel who can do no wrong and tells us to open a window. Is there anything we can do?

    1. JokeyJules*

      PS the boss is having an affair and keeps giving me their expense receipts for romantic dates

      1. While we're at it...*

        PPS: They boss want me to go to couples therapy with them. And the dog.

        1. JokeyJules*

          Sidenote: I haven’t been paid in 2 years but that’s a whole other story. I’m job hunting

        2. Crazydogthread*

          Also to interview for the job I had to travel to the CEO’s house and cook an dinner for 40 dogs. It was maddening

  13. CatCat*

    The basic principle is that people’s ability to do their jobs trumps people’s desire to bring dogs to work.

    Yes. This. So sensible and yet the drama will never end.

    1. KT84*

      I agree – I am a dog person but unless they are a Service Dog, don’t see why people need to bring their dogs into work. Dogs can be a big distraction – and I find a lot of dog owners (including my own family members) tend to think their dogs are better behaved than they really are.

    2. scmill*

      Agreed. This is ridiculous. Work is for work and not pets. And I have had dogs all my life. Outside of Service Animals, there’s no reason for them to be in an office.

  14. Close Bracket*

    When everybody, including Lucille and the dog, moved to that floor for Friday drinks (another perk of the office) Jane left.

    Lucille knew she had a dog phobic colleague who moved to that floor to work specifically to get away from the dog bc she was on the verge of tears, and she brought her dog up there anyway. Wow. Lucille has a serious empathy deficit.

    1. Sarah N*

      Yeah, this feels like either a personal attack or someone who is severely lacking in empathy/judgement. It’s one thing to generally take advantage of a dog-friendly office, but it’s another thing to specifically follow a dog-phobic person around when they have attempted to get away from you! I feel like there might be deeper culture issues here that need to be addressed in addition to settling on a dog policy.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        While Lucille certainly could lack empathy/judgement, it could have been simple lack of thoughtfulness (still an issue) but I think a less severe/different one than Lucille lacking empathy/judgement.
        If I were to bring my dog into work I would try to keep it by my side at almost all times to ensure I can keep an eye on it. I would not want force someone else to take care of it, risk the dog damaging an office, or someone walking into what they thought was an open office to find a dog there. I am a firm believer that all dogs (even the most well trained ones) are nice/non biters until they aren’t. While you can greatly reduce the risk of that happening with training there is always a chance something can happen. I do think Lucille should be talked to about being more thoughtful/purposeful of her doing being at work, I don’t think she should be painted with such a broad stroke unless we know otherwise.

    2. Samwise*

      Yes, OP if you are Lucille’s manager, you need to have a talk with her. Why didn’t Lucille leave the dog in her office / on the floor that Jane was not on?

      1. OP*

        I’m not Lucille’s manager, and the office has an ‘all dogs must be on a leash and with a person at all times’ policy, which I guess is an attempt to mitigate milder dog-phobias than Jane’s! I do also honestly believe Lucille didn’t know how afraid Jane was when she brought the dog up – she was a long way away from her and Jane left (quietly) before she really had a chance to clock what was going on. She hasn’t brought the dog in on a day when Jane is in the office since.

  15. Pnuf*

    Why did you move to a dog-allowing co-working space when you have an employee with a serious dog phobia?

    1. The Original K.*

      Maybe they didn’t know she had it? I have a phobia of snakes but I don’t think anyone at work knows because it doesn’t really come up. I don’t know the fears or pet preferences of most of my coworkers. I know one has two cats and one has a dog because they’ve mentioned them, but there are plenty of people I work with where I don’t know if they have pets, like pets, fear pets, etc.

    2. Murphy*

      I’m assuming they didn’t know. People don’t necessarily go around broadcasting their phobias.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, the people who made the decision on the office move wouldn’t have known about Jane’s phobia before they moved, and when the new location was announced the dog-friendliness wasn’t included in the initial overview of benefits etc. Don’t think the majority of staff were aware the place allowed dogs until Lucille’s arrived.

        1. blackcat*

          Oof. This has been handled really badly. Moving into a dog friendly space without a TON of warning/consulting with employees is really problematic.
          I have a dog allergy that rises to ADA level (asthma attacks, can be severe). But the vast majority of the people I work with do not know this because it’s just not relevant. You could have easily had someone in a similar position.

          1. Clisby*

            No kidding. And while some of the suggestions like bringing the dogs in only on certain days might work out for a dog-phobic person, it’s not going to be much help for someone with allergies. There is NO way they can clean the office well enough between dogs to get rid of allergens. I am mildly – nowhere near dangerously – allergic to both cats and dogs. When my husband and I were househunting, we several times went into a house where there were no pets at all on site, and my sneezing/itchy eyes within 5 minutes told me a cat or dog lived there. (Oddly – or maybe not – I typically don’t have allergic reactions to my own cats after I’ve had them for a few months. A new cat brings on the symptoms, and then they just fade away over time.)

            1. Lalala*

              That’s pretty normal, actually–a lot of people with pet allergies get used to their own pets. One of my friends had severe allergies when she first got her cats, but those faded after a few months. When she got a new cat, the allergies cropped up again, and then faded again with time. She still has to take a crapton of allergy meds if she’s coming to visit me or anyone else with cats she doesn’t encounter on an everyday basis, though.

              Of course, some people have allergies so severe they can’t be around any pets at all. Which would suck.

              1. animaniactoo*

                [waves hands] Me. This would be me. I have surprisingly found a few dogs that I do not react to at all, but they are rare and I have no idea which ones they would be on a regular basis.

                However, the real sucktastic part is that I love cats and would LOVE to have a cat, and they are my #1 “head for the ER immediately if I get scratched” allergy.

            1. Taro chips*

              It happens a lot. I worked for a property management company a few years ago and 1/2 of the time the company making the purchase decisions (usually for 3 -5 year contracts) never want to come and see the space in person, they only want the details on paper.

        2. jf*

          I’ll take your word as OP, but, frankly, it sounds like no one has really taken Jane seriously at all at any stage of this. I suppose I could imagine worse treatment, but what you describe is bad enough that it all blends together.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, the whole thing feels off to me, which is why I emailed in. No questions were asked about whether people were ok with dogs before the move, and no information given about the fact it was dog-friendly was shared with employees in advance (although you could find out by reading the co-working space owner’s website, which I’m guessing is what Lucille did). Jane hasn’t brought it up at all though, and is desperate not to make a fuss, which I completely understand.

            The most senior person in the office (totally separate reporting lines / department to Jane), who was heavily involved in picking the new space, is a big fan of the perk – her dog is in the room with me right now. I could easily see some willful ignorance playing a part – by not asking the question pre-move they avoid factoring it into decisions and post move pretending not to notice Jane’s discomfort without her making it explicit lets them carry on.

            1. Wing Leader*

              This isn’t the type of question I should be answering because I’m very pro-dog and I get defensive about that.

              That said, even I’ll admit that your office did Jane wrong (and probably others) with the way they handled this. It definitely sounds like your senior executive skirted around checking in with people about dogs in the office just so she could enjoy the perk.

              If they’d gone about it the right away and checked with people first, they probably would have found that dogs would not work in the office. Bummer? Yeah. But not near as bad as instantly becoming a dog-friendly office, finding out that it doesn’t work for someone, and then having to do various forms of gymnastics in order to try and accommodate everyone.

              1. blackcat*

                Yeah, it also sounds like maybe the higher up who was excited about this didn’t check *because* they knew people wouldn’t want it. Or didn’t want to confront that possibility.

                Honestly, OP, this is not reflecting well on your company. I would not be surprised if you lose Jane and maybe others based on what’s going on. And, in your shoes without much power, all you can do is be supportive while others are job searching.

                1. OP*

                  Very possibly, but we do have perks we’d be hard-pressed to match – the amount of flexibility we have to work from home / flex our hours is great. I think what’s likely to happen in the short term is that Jane will reduce her (already low) office attendance further, her immediate colleagues will too and the existing rift between staff from that department and regional staff will get worse than it already is. That could easily deteriorate into people leaving over time.

                2. Pnuf*

                  Yeah, the company is not coming across well here. If I were Jane I’d be resigning. Particularly given the ‘solution’ of “hey, we’ll schedule the dogs and you can work around them!” Fair play to you for trying to sort this out, OP, but the company needs to be more focused on the needs of the humans it pays to do a job and less on the dogs it…doesn’t.

                3. Observer*

                  This will probably cause the company to lose people. And beyond that, anything that widens a rift in a company IS going to be a cost to the business. Stuff like this has the potential to get REALLY toxic, quickly.

            2. Observer*

              and post move pretending not to notice Jane’s discomfort without her making it explicit lets them carry on.

              The thing is that this is actually not the case. It might be worth point your higher ups to some resources that explain this.

              The reality is that once you know that someone has a disability – and your office IS on notice, you have an affirmative obligation to engage in an interactive process to figure out an accommodation. And while I son’t think that they WILL be obligated to move, it certainly is the case that it could be something they might have to consider.

              What is NOT an option, legally speaking, is pretending that they do not know about it.

              From a moral point of view? Your senior staff person is being a jerk.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          wait – the place allows dogs, but your company never explicitly said, ‘we allow dogs’, but Lucille brought hers anyway? And then followed Jane to another floor with her dog for a brief social time?

          You don’t have a dog problem, you have a Lucille problem. That is some serious entitled / unprofessional behavior, you need to check whether that’s spilling into other work areas.

          1. OP*

            I think Lucille is coming off worse here than she actually is – she saw on the co-working space website that they allow dogs, spoke to the most senior person in the office who said she was planning to bring hers in sometimes and then brought it in. I told her Jane was in the office and is afraid of dogs so Lucille didn’t enter the office space at all and stayed out in the co-working area. When she came upstairs for the drinks I’m not 100% sure whether she knew Jane was on that floor at that point, and I’m positive she hadn’t realised that Jane was so scared / upset that she couldn’t be on the opposite end of a large lounge area from a leashed dog.

            Since that day Lucille has brought the dog in once and checked in advance whether Jane was going to be in the office, which she wasn’t.

            1. jf*

              “I think Lucille is coming off worse here than she actually is…”

              I don’t know; it’s always going to be hard to make Lucille chasing Jane around the space with her dog sound better than it is.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                This is a miss characterization of what OP said in the letter and in this specific post. In this last post they said they don’t know that Lucille knew that Jane had moved to the floor with drinks and staying on the opposite end of a large lounge area is hardly chasing Jane around with the dog.

              2. KnockItOff*

                Rude comment not necessary. OP just said she wasn’t chasing Jane around the space.

              3. Curious*

                I don’t even like dogs and I think people are being really uncharitable to Lucille here.

              4. Yorick*

                Did you read the comment you replied to? It sounds like Lucille did everything right here and was in no way chasing Jane around with the dog.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            That seems harsh. The company didn’t explicitly say they didn’t allow dogs, other people in the building had dogs, and we don’t know that Lucille didn’t ask her boss or someone higher up in the company if it was okay first. And that said boss didn’t, not knowing about Jane’s phobia, shrug and say “I guess so, sure.”

        4. JJ*

          It sucks that she has to decide between removing herself from the workplace or being the dog police (and it sounds very much like she’s trying to avoid the latter). This office and this policy is making her CHOOSE to be isolated and miss out on opportunities you’d get if you were in the office (or on the same floor as everyone) because it’s prioritizing the dogs. I’ve experienced this to a lesser extend as a vegetarian in an office that loves big meat lunch days. You have to leave and get your own lunch while everyone else gets to bond and socialize and it feels very bad. If I was actively afraid of meat on top of that, I’d have probably left that job after a few more exclusionary meat parades. Jane, I’m so sorry you are in this position, it really is unfair and your company and coworkers are being awfully cavalier about it all.

    3. Beth*

      I’d assume they weren’t aware. I’ve never preemptively informed my bosses of my phobia (centipedes, for the record; not generally relevant to office life). And it sounds like their previous arrangement wasn’t dog-friendly, so there’s no reason that Jane would have needed to disclose it before.

      The company should probably have checked before assuming that a dog-friendly space was a good option, considering how many people have allergies, phobias, or just general distraction issues around animals.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    It’s complicated by your being in a shared space with other companies – but it is a legal requirement to make sure she’s not disadvantaged by this – and a “be fair” requirement too :)

    So all of the options suggested are good ones – dogs when Jane is at home, dogs on different floor … the only thing I’d add is be very careful about the Friday drinks event. If she’s unable to attend those, and it’s part of the culture where you get a chance to network, that could be an issue. Anywhere/time Jane could reasonay expect to be there if she did not have a phobia is somewhere that has to be dog free at that time.

    Luckily it’s a new perk! So it may be less painful than if it had been there forever.

    1. OP*

      Yep – again though, the Friday drinks event is a building perk, not one organised by our company. So we could say no dogs on the drinks floor on Fridays when Jane is in, but there’s no getting around what employees of other companies are doing. Just one of many ways co-working is already proving complicated – issues with finding quiet spaces for people to sit exams through us when meeting rooms are poorly soundproofed and we can’t ask people who don’t work for us to whisper in common areas is also proving a headache!

          1. valentine*

            we can’t ask people who don’t work for us to whisper in common areas
            Of course you can. If you had a migraine at a restaurant, you could ask the next table to keep it down and decent people would. I’m assuming the exams aren’t daily or all day, but even then, arrangements could be made. It’s not a carnival. You don’t have to accept that anything goes.

            There’s a lot of speak no evil/hear no evil in this company. No one communicated about the dogs. No one checked the decibel level of the exam room area.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I’ve seen it work very well, but you really have to make sure the culture of the space matches the needs of your company. The space I worked in was all companies with only one to three people in them, it offered a really great space and everyone got along well. This is the kind of thing where you need to bring your whole company in to chat with people there to make sure it will be a good fit. And yes – there was a dog.

      1. blackcat*

        Honestly, it sounds like your company needs to rethink this arrangement. Is there another coworking space that is dog free and has better (more soundproof) meeting rooms? If so, it’s likely worth it even if it is more expensive.

      2. animaniactoo*

        As somebody with allergies significant enough that I have to take meds a week in advance just to visit my sister’s house for the weekend, I’d like to suggest that you guys heavily push back on the building operation about that.

        There’s dog friendly, and then there’s dog overrun. Allowing the dogs into the kitchen space rather than into individual offices/spaces means cutting people with allergies off from using that space on a regular, daily basis.

        Kitchens, bathrooms, and potentially one or two conference rooms would be on my list of “your dogs are welcome in the building but not these spaces. Among other things, even if it isn’t an employee, it might be a client coming to meet you. That’s a drawback for people using those spaces specifically TO meet with clients.

        I once had a VERY uncomfortable meeting because I was asked to be the consulting designer for somebody who had some ideas she wanted to work with my company on… and she walked in with a purse dog and then was completely phased when I wouldn’t shake her hand and gave the dog a wide berth. And that was just her showing up unexpectedly with one dog. Two hours in a room that might have significant amounts of dander/fur accumulated over time, no matter how well it was cleaned on a daily basis? I’d be having problems breathing by the time I walked out, my eyes would be watering and all sorts of areas would be itching. Any emergency allergy meds would be a stopgap at best to keep me from launching into a full-blown attack.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, I think for things like networking/team building/etc, it needs to be more strictly no-dogs to make sure Jane has the full opportunity to participate.

  17. Roscoe*

    I mean, I think you just need to only let the dogs in when she isn’t there, since it seems that is fairly often. But as far as everyone else goes, she may need to just move permanently to the other floors. I’m guessing you signed some kind of lease there, so you probably can’t move. Maybe see if she wants to work from home or remotely more often than she does now.

      1. Roscoe*

        But the dogs aren’t only from this company. They can’t tell another company to not allow the dogs in the office because of one of their employees.

        1. jf*

          So it’s supposed to be mitigating that they allowed in a bunch of dogs from other companies? I know if I wanted a bunch of dogs running around my office and I wanted to deflect as much responsibility as possible, I would relocate my office to a place full of dogs and then say “We can’t send them home, and we’re stuck here; we’ve got a lease!”

          1. Roscoe*

            Did you read the letter? It is a co-working space. The dogs stay in the offices, but Jane is afraid if the dogs are even on the same floor. So OP’s office can’t dictate what another company is doing in the space they are paying for. Jane being scared to be on the same floor is a bit much honestly, but all OPs company can deal with is their employees.

  18. RUKiddingMe*

    Is anyone else icked out that they allow dogs in the communal kitchen? I mean I don’t know that X person is using good sanitation practices anyway and now they have a dog eith them? Just me?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Nope, I’m with you. My dog is barely allowed in my own kitchen except to eat his dinner.

    2. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      It wouldn’t bother me at all, as long as the dog isn’t, idk, walking around on the counters licking things or something similar. But I’m not squeamish about germs in general and even less about pet germs in particular, so I bet there’s people who disagree (my main sanitation worry is all the men in our office who do not wash their hands after they’ve been to the restroom!).

      1. Dragoning*

        I mean, dogs aren’t allowed in restaurant kitchens and things because it’s a food safety hazard and can get a place shut down.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          True, but there’s many things that aren’t allowed in restaurant kitchens that are done routinely in office and home kitchens. And you’re far more likely to catch something from another human than a dog. (Not cause dogs are cleaner, per se, but because other humans are more likely to carry human-infecting germs.)

          That said, I think dogs in kitchens is a fairly normal thing to be sketched out by.

      2. VictorianCowgirl*

        That is the same situation as a dog sitting on his bum on the kitchen floor. There will be a small amount of fecal matter on even the cleanest dog’s bum.

      3. PeteyKat*

        People are worried that dogs are so dirty. I wouldn’t want them on my counters that is true. However, people don’t wash their hands after using the restroom, people track who knows what germs from the filthy sidewalks (and bathrooms while we are at it) on the bottom of their shoes all over the kitchen floors. I’ve never gotten sick from my dog (or cat) but I have gotten sick from someone NOT washing their hands.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Yep. People here don’t seem to realize how filthy humans are and where they put their mouths and hands.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      My cat is currently curled up asleep on my kitchen counter, next to her water bowl. Dogs stay on the floor, how is that gross?

        1. Dragoning*

          Yeahhhhh, cats walk through litter boxes with, you know, their waste in in. Absolutely no on the kitchen counters.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, good luck stopping your cat from doing what it wants when you’re not home.

          1. Clisby*

            I’m retired, and if I find the cat on a kitchen counter or tabletop, the cat is unceremoniously escorted outside. He’s 14 now, and can’t jump up on the counters any more, so that’s good.

          2. e271828*

            My current cat stopped jumping on the kitchen counters after setting off the house burglar alarm while I was out. Up he went and the whole house screamed at him. He was already halfway trained, though; he’d never do it if I was home. Cats can be trained not to go on kitchen counters and tables.

          3. EH*

            There’s this thing called a Ssscat, it’s a motion detector attached to canned air. Set off the detector, and it blows a burst of air. Nontoxic, won’t harm the cat, but it startles the beejeezus out of them. It’s almost as good as if we stood there 24/7 ourselves and chased them down when they tried to get up.

            Our cats stay off all the surfaces we protect that way, and the effect doesn’t wear off for months (in some places it’s never worn off; elsewhere we clean the surface in question and set a Ssscat there again for a while). We always have one guarding my plants and one guarding my bookbinding workbench (one of our cats loooooves to chew plants and cardboard), but the rest rotate around as needed. It’s a little annoying to have to remember to turn the Ssscat off and on again when I am using the surface in question, but not having to worry about the cats getting where they shouldn’t is worth it.

            It’s very satisfying to hear a cat set one off and then sprint out of the room in horror. They set them off really rarely, though.

            1. Rumbakalao*

              I have a cat. I also live in an apartment. There is no kitchen door. Most people I know with pets do not live a house where every single space can be closed off.

        3. Chickena*

          If the idea really bothers you probably shouldn’t get a cat. We don’t allow our cats on the kitchen counter, and they won’t go on it in front of us – and if I walk into the kitchen and there’s a cat on the counter, the cat will immediately jump off. So the cats very much know they’re not allowed on the counter but it doesn’t stop them when we’re not in the room, alas.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Right? Cats not allowed on counters or tables. Mine know it too. Not that they don’t do it when I’m not around, I’m not naive, but that’s why I’m constantly disinfecting food surfaces. Well one of the reasons anyway.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        About thirty seconds before I got this far in the comments, my housemate had to wipe the dog fur off the (covered!) stovetop before he could use it to make his lunch. The stove was covered, the dogs aren’t leaving the floor, but in the slightly modified words of the inestimable Jeff Goldblum, fur finds a way.

      2. CMart*

        Pet dander/fur gets everywhere, which as a pet owner I’m sure you’re more than well aware of.

        I had a dog visit my home several months ago and I am still finding shed hairs like… in my kitchen drawers. This dog (great dane) did little more than walk from room to room and lay down in a sunny patch near the door while she was there.

        It’s gross.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          You realize humans shed hair and skin too, yes? It’s everywhere.

          1. Anon for today and probably tomorrow*

            I’m not allergic to human hair and skin. I am allergic to dog and cat hair/fur/dander/saliva.

        1. Clisby*

          When we bought our house in 2005, one of the first things we did before moving in was to thoroughly clean the place. My daughter and I found cat hair *in the freezer*.

    4. ThatGirl*

      My dog is a 15 lb maltipoo who may eat some stray cheese off the floor but otherwise doesn’t really shed and wouldn’t be a big sanitation risk. But obviously some dogs do shed, are much bigger, may try to steal food, etc.

  19. Amber Rose*

    “If your office is big enough and logistics allow for this, one option is to have a dog-free space people can work in, have meetings in, etc.”

    Which wouldn’t work because apparently the existence of dogs upsets this person whether they can be seen or not. Where does reasonable turn into unreasonable here?

    And I have to wonder, if you can’t even be on the same floor as a dog that you can’t see, how do you function in life? I can’t even drive to the corner store without seeing someone’s dog poking their head out the window.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Driving to the corner store probably requires a lot less mental composure than getting through a full day of work, every day.

      1. Amber Rose*

        But that’s my point. If she can’t even see the dogs and it upsets her, then even just being at home, knowing dogs are all around, is the same level of stress isn’t it?

        I know “get over it” is not the answer and I would never say so, but I remember watching a show many years ago about a woman who was afraid of mustard and it was just ruining her life. She went to pretty huge extremes to try to get better for that reason.

        1. Wednesday*

          I mean, it kind of sounds sounds like “get over it” is what you’re saying in these comments. If the knowledge that there’s a dog in the office building, which is an enclosed space that Jane can’t exert control over (unlike her home or driving to the store in her own car), is impacting Jane’s ability to complete her work, it’s not crossing the line from reasonable to unreasonable to expect Jane to be prioritized over the dog and the dog owner’s wants.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          We know Jane has difficulty functioning to the degree needed to work when there is a dog on the floor, even if she can’t see it. We don’t know that this extends to her being completely paralyzed by fear in all environments. That’s entirely speculation.

        3. animaniactoo*

          No, it’s not the same level of stress.

          She can walk away from dogs she encounters while she’s out and about in the world. Or know that her exposure period is extremely brief.

          At home, she has the security of knowing that while there may be dogs out and about in the world, SHE controls the space and there will be none in her home.

          A lot of this is about control – the less control she has over what she is able to do, the higher the anxiety level is. So, dog in another office is not good enough solely because she doesn’t have the same ability to “defend” her dog-free turf (I mean, note, she went down to the kitchen and then the dog appeared in the kitchen). She also doesn’t have the same ability to leave completely without repercussions. She can do her shopping another time if she needs to with probably only minor hardship. And she can do that time and time again without it being an issue for anybody but her. Doing that at work will create major repercussions over time, so she doesn’t have the same flexibility for it there. She is “stuck” and the stuck changes the anxiety inducing response about dogs being in her proximity.

        4. hbc*

          Do you really have nothing that would terrify you in your house versus outside your house? I can acknowledge the presence of murderers in the world, but I would be pretty uncomfortable having one (even if apparently reformed and not active) in my house or as a neighbor or coworker.

          Trapped in a kennel > dog nearby that could come through any minute > leashed dogs nearby at the park > dog trotting this way. Exact order and where you switch from paralysis to discomfort is highly variable.

    2. KHB*

      Jane’s phobia doesn’t go away just because you think it’s unreasonable. That’s not how any of this works.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I never said it did, nor did I say she was unreasonable. I was asking where accommodations stop being reasonable. Because they have to be reasonable. It’s not reasonable to completely change a job, for example.

        I get that the dog topic causes hackles to go up, but please don’t get mad at me over something I didn’t actually say.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          The line generally falls when the nature of the accommodations needed precludes the function of the role or poses a significant financial hardship for the company.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Right, but I saw above that the company may be required to move. Given that they literally just moved in, would that not be a financial hardship?

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              There are options besides moving: work with the other companies in the space to designate certain areas or floors as dog-free, or certain days as dog free. None of that would cost a thing. The other companies would have the same struggle if they hired someone whose disability involved not being near dogs (such as severe allergies, phobias), and hopefully pointing that out would help these other companies cooperate on a solution. – (And if those other companies refuse to cooperate on a solution, then seriously, the company should reconsider the coworking space anyway because it wouldn’t be sustainable for long even without the current issue.)

              1. Observer*

                That assumes that the other companies are willing to work with the OP’s employer, though.

                I DO think they should try that route, of course. But given how some people can be, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

            2. jf*

              Dumb decisions often lead to financial hardships. It’s sort of how we learn to be smarter.

              1. Natalie*

                The point is that significant financial expense can be an undue burden that exempts the employer from having to make any accommodation. (Assuming ADA is even at play here.)

                1. jf*

                  Eh, the firm walked straight into a bright orange streetsign when they chose to allow dogs (either without concern for their staff, or despite known concerns). No sympathy here; I’ll save it for the employees for when this obviously tight ship breaks apart on the rocks.

                2. Observer*

                  JF, it doesn’t matter if you have sympathy in this case. The law is what it is. And companies are not legally required to inquire about any and all possible disabilities before they make a move like this.

        2. Clisby*

          Banning dogs is entirely reasonable – at least, nothing the OP said indicates that dogs are necessary to the work being done.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          The line is teally dimple. Jane’s needs trump dog owners’ wants. Person > dog.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            But the other companies needn’t do that. They have their dogs there and Jane isn’t their employee.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Right. The other companies don’t have to make a reasonable accommodation. Jane’s employer does therefore the onus is on them to do so.

          2. Jerusha*

            RUKiddingMe, I know it was a typo, but I have to tell you I got a chuckle out of “teally dimple”

    3. Close Bracket*

      That’s just really diminishing. Jane apparently functions just fine in life since she holds down a job and everything. Not to mention that phobias are by nature unreasonable.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Barely functioning and functioning just fine are two different things and can look the same on the outside. I’ve spent years seeing various doctors for that reason.

        1. KHB*

          So suppose that Jane is barely functioning. She looks OK from the outside, but it takes every ounce of courage she has to make the journey to work, to the corner store, to wherever, because she never knows when she’ll run into a dog.

          If I were her employer, that would make me more sensitive to her situation, not less. I’d want to give her as much as a respite at work from the dog-filled world as possible, and I’d be horrified to have unknowingly caused her such distress by moving the company to a dog-friendly space.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “if you can’t even be on the same floor as a dog that you can’t see, how do you function in life?”

      This is dismissive of phobias – or rather, is dismissive of people who have phobias in a way that makes no sense.

      I have a phobia of spiders. An actual phobia, not an “oooh, spiders are icky.” I get panic attacks, heart racing, misery. And yet I am a functioning human.

      Jane manages just fine. She has found ways to make it work (though the office needs to do a far better job accommodating her), and is behaving entirely professionally even though she is faced with a situation in which she had to deal with her phobia on an apparently almost daily basis.

      1. LCL*

        It’s not dismissive, it’s a totally legitimate question. It’s only dismissive if used as such-ie, telling Jane that dogs are everywhere, get used to it. It wouldn’t be fair to ask Jane that question. But since people are discussing the nature of phobias here, and some posters are kind enough to explain, it is a reasonable thing to ask.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          If she intended it as “hey I am curious about how phobias work because I don’t know how people manage through them when they are really severe ” then I agree, that is totally a valid question if you want to understand more. That’s not how the comment read to me, but I’d love to be wrong – how to read to me was as an attempt to be condescending to the Jane in the letter.

      2. Ella bee bee*

        Agreed. I have an actual phobia of mice. I will cry hysterically and have trouble breathing if I see a mouse. I realize it’s not rational, but that’s how it is. If I heard there was a mouse on the floor where I work, even if I couldn’t see it, I would have a really hard time doing anything. However, I’m very functional in other situations. I know that I could encounter mice in other places, but I don’t sit at home in fear of running into a mouse.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, I’m kind of the same way with spiders. I’m actually ok with most spiders if they’re sitting still and I know where they are. And I’m ok with the general knowledge that there is probably at least one spider in this building. But knowing that there is definitely a spider that I had my eye on but has now run off somewhere probably into my lunch bag will have me distracted all day.

    5. Gymmie*

      So dismissive and completely unaware of how phobias work. Also, there are a lot of things people put up with in daily life that they shouldn’t have to in the office. And we are talking about dogs in an office. This is not a right nor a need. It’s just a perk for some people. I’m kind of flabbergasted at people thinking their convenience of their pet is trumping someone’s need to be able to do their job.

      1. Preschool Teacher*

        Exactly! There are zero business reasons for dogs to be there, that isn’t true of Jane.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes. This isn’t a vet’s office, or a dog-grooming business, or a boarding kennel.

    6. JJ*

      Well, and also in my experience people tend to let their dogs run loose around the office, so she’s probably constantly afraid a dog will turn up even if she can’t see it most of the time. If it was a “dogs are always contained in our offices except when going in and out of the building” situation it would probably be calmer for her.

  20. Zip Silver*

    I want to touch on OP mentioning that it’s a cost saving thing. How many people actually hire out dog sitters during the workday? I’ve had dogs my whole life, and we’ve only ever gotten a sitter/kenneled them when going out of town, and left the dogs at home during the day.

    Seems like an extravagant expense.

    1. LawBee*

      Yes! Dog walkers, dog sitters, kenneling during the day – this is all new to me. Most dogs are fine at home during the day, they don’t need all of this! It baffles me.

      1. Dragoning*

        The culture seems to be shifting to “Taking better care of dogs and pets generally” at least in the US. When I was growing up, we definitely left our dogs in the house all day while we were at school/work, and…

        wow, I have no idea how they didn’t have to go to the bathroom during that period or why we would think that was okay.

        1. Natalie*

          Dogs generally sleep when they are left home alone, and like most creatures they don’t need to eliminate while they sleep.

          1. Dragoning*

            A lot of dogs don’t sleep that much, and we had two dogs–they had each other to keep company, and we definitely came home many times to evidence of their activity. Besides, if they sleep during the day, what are they doing at night?

            This sounds like “Dog turns off when humans aren’t around” which simply isn’t the case.

            1. Natalie*

              Adult dogs sleep around 14 hours each day, puppies and senior dogs sleep even more than that on average. (Puppies up to 20 hours a day, although they obviously have to eliminate far more often given their immature physiology.) It’s perfectly feasible for a dog to sleep a lot during the workday and also sleep at night.

              Obviously some dogs will be outliers, but you asked why they didn’t need to go to the bathroom and I gave you the most likely answer. They were probably asleep most of the time.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I have read that vets/dog experts recommend not leaving dogs alone for more than 8 hours without being able to use the bathroom, and that is stretching it. That does not mean people don’t do it or leave dogs alone for longer without being able to use the bathroom, I imagine a lot of people still do this. But as we progress as a society our treatment of people and animals progresses also. Right now I am away from home for 11 hours a day (9 hour workday plus 1 hour commute each way) and that’s if I go straight home after work. I have a cat and would love to get a dog, but I don’t get one because I do not want to pay for a dog walker every day, I am unable to run home to let the dog out during the day, and don’t want to have to run straight home everyday after work.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              And that’s reasonable. What wouldn’t be reasonable would be to get a dog then complain about the cost of hiring a dog walker and try to insist your choice to get a dog trumps a coworkers needs because dog walkers cost money.

              Like buying a car and figuring insurance, gas, etc. into the overall cost, people getting pets should figure other than just food costs.

        2. Blue Bunny*

          Several people I know with smaller dogs (like < 30 pounds) have litter boxes for them.

      2. Anonymouse*

        It makes me feel kinda bad – I have really relaxed/old dogs who just lounge around all day while we’re gone. They get three walks a day, use their pee pad, and seem to be generally ok with the arrangement?

      3. Jeanettetenet*

        It’s a common trend amongst people with more time or more money to spend on their dogs. It’s still perfectly normal to leave an adult dog alone for 8 to 9 hours (the, I believe, generally accepted limit) as long as they have an acceptable climate to stay in and access to water. You can’t leave puppies that long without them eliminating because their bladders aren’t fully developed.

      4. paperpusher*

        I’m surprised by this because I work with a lot of people who have dogs, and it just means they have to go straight home after work. But we tend to work 8 hours a day and have short commutes – from this site, I gather that the 8-5 or longer day is becoming more common in the US.

      5. CheeryO*

        I don’t know anyone with a dog who doesn’t go home at lunch or use doggy daycare or a sitter, so maybe it’s a regional/cultural thing. Also, how many people are really only out of the house for 9 hours, max? That’s a pretty short day and short commute these days.

        1. Lauren*

          Same here. Everyone I know who has a dog and works a full-time job has some kind of arrangement for the dog to be let out during the day. My 75 year old mother has quite the side hustle going, doing dog-walking for working people during the day in her urban neighborhood, and doing dog-sitting for people whose jobs might take them out of town for a few days. Entirely normal, and it’s been that way for years. Dog-walkers during the day are not some new trend, LOL.

      6. Dust Bunny*

        The fact that something is what we always used to do doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have been better. We used to drown bags of unwanted puppies, too, but now we can spay and neuter so there’s no humane reason to do this.

        My parents’ neighbors leave their dogs in the yard all day and it mostly means that their dogs are obnoxious nuisance barkers. The owners don’t think it’s a problem because of course they are not there to hear it, but everyone else is tired of them. Ask yourself: If you spent all day, every day, in your bedroom, how bored would you be after about a week? The answer is very. Very, very, bored. Ditto crate training: Try spending a few hours sitting in your bathtub and decide how comfortable and entertaining it is. Right.

        That’s why we hire dog walkers now. (Actually, it’s why I have cats. My cats don’t love being home all day, either, but at least they’re not annoying the neighbors, can play with each other, and can avail themselves of the litter box comfortably whenever they need to.)

    2. NYCRedhead*

      I am out of the house for work 12 hours a day. If I did not have a family member at home, I would need a dog sitter every single day.

    3. Stanley Nickels*

      It’s also an expense that should be factored in when getting a pet, and without the expectation that others will have to shoulder your decision. An owner can’t expect a coworker to suffer because the owner took on the responsibilities of owning a pet and now want to save some money.

      1. Wing Leader*

        That’s really presumptuous. Maybe when the person got the dog, they didn’t need to work, but now they do need to work? You can do your best, but you can’t plan for and foresee everything.

        1. PollyQ*

          Fair point, but the burden should still fall on the owner, not on random people who have no connection to the dog.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Like PollyQ said the burden is still on the dog owner to find a way to take care of the dog while they are at work. If the means paying for a walker to come midday that’s what you do, finding a job that allows you to come home to walk them in the middle of the day, asking a relative/friend/neighbor to walk the do during the day. I can understand wanting to work at a dog friendly office, but if you do get a job at a place like that you can’t count on that always working. The daytime care is the reason I don’t have a dog right now even though I would really love to have one, but I am out of the house at least 11 hrs a day if not more.

        3. Stanley Nickels*

          It’s the owners’ responsibility to ask themselves those future “what if” questions and be prepared to take on the care of a pet without putting undue hardship on their coworkers, current or future.

          I agree that you can’t plan for everything, but in the case of getting a new job, I would expect that you would have some time to plan for your pet’s daily care throughout the hiring process.

        4. Lissa*

          I mean – yes, that is true. But it’s also a “maybe” that I doubt applies the vast majority of people doing this. The other part of it is that the culture has shifted far more to “pets (especially dogs) should be treated like family” and things have changed a lot in respect people to bringing pets (again mostly just dogs) with them to work, Starbucks, etc, and some people think that’s great and others don’t.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      This is why I got a cat. Knowing I’d be at work for eight hours, plus commute time, plus any post-work errands, obligations, or fun time, it was too much for me to have a dog that needs to be let out. Cat had the litter box and was content to sleep all day.

      My mom works for a school bus company and does a split shift – a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. She’s home in the middle and can let the dog out then. If she didn’t have that kind of job she probably wouldn’t have gotten a dog.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Perhaps, but it’s increasingly expected that dog owners make these kinds of arrangements. More and more breeders, rescues, and animal welfare agencies make it an adoption requirement to for the prospective owner to have a clearly defined plan for human-on-site care during the owner’s working hours. It’s always possible to obtain a dog through more informal means where these requirements don’t apply, but that comes with other trade-offs.

      The heightened expectations of dog owners is a significant part of why I no longer have one – the standards have moved to a point where I can’t meet them, and it’s on me to recognize that this means I’m no longer fit to have a dog.

    6. Wafflesforpresident*

      I’m replying to Zip, LawBee, Natalie, and NYCRedhead in this comment.

      Different breeds sleep different amounts. I have a greyhound who notoriously sleeps up to 18 hours a day, so yes he is mostly fine if I leave him him for long stretches. Other breeds may not sleep as much.

      Bladder control is also variant based on age, breed, and other factors. Some dogs may be crate trained to “hold it” for up to 12 hours but that is by far the outlier. General consensus states that dogs should go out on average every 6 hours. A typical dog will need to pee 3-5 times a day. (

      Then we get into the separate topic of stimulation and exercise. Again, it’s dependent on age, breed, and other factors, but based on this article from PetMD (, the best case scenario is a 1:1 exercise ratio between humans and dogs. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week for people. Now dogs don’t have the stamina that people do, so you’d need to break the exercises up over the day to get that total time in a week. Here’s another more anecdotal article about dog walking frequency that touches on urinary health (

      So it comes down to what’s best for your dog. Dogs are animals, they need to pee. Dogs are social creatures, they need exercise and social contact. If you can’t provide regular walks with your dog, it’s not getting the best care it possibly can get.

      I hire a walker for my dog every day. It is about $300 a month. It’s expensive but it’s worth it knowing he’s happy and healthy.

      1. Wing Leader*

        I agree about the breed thing. I have an American Eskimo and she rarely sleeps. She sleeps just a few hours in a 24 hour period, at the most, and that’s all she needs. And she pees a lot. The only saving grace is that my husband takes her to work with him so she doesn’t have to sit at home all day.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I grew up with American Eskimo dogs! Our last one was mercifully mellow and quiet but the preceding ones were characteristically, uh, vocal. We would never, ever, have left them in the yard for long because they would have been terrible barkers. (Plus it’s too hot here to leave them out.)

          1. Wing Leader*

            Yes, mine is very vocal. I couldn’t bring her to my office even if we were dog friendly because she would bark way too much.

        2. Wafflesforpresident*

          My guy sleeps all day. At my old job I had my own office so I brought him in every day. People didn’t even know unless they stopped by. But now I’m in a more open office set up so I leave him home and have a dog walker come around lunch.

    7. A Simple Narwhal*

      I have a walker/playgroup come three times a week. It means that my pup gets exercise, sunshine (especially during the winter months when it’s dark before I get home), a chance to go to bathroom, and socialization with other dogs. It also means I get more wiggle room if I have to work late or have an after work commitment. Sure, she’s fine on the days that she doesn’t get to go out, but she’s way happier on days that she gets to.

      It’s not insanely expensive (/I’ve found a great company that isn’t insanely expensive at only ~$60/week for three sessions), so I wouldn’t consider losing that perk an annoyance from a monetary standpoint, but it is absolutely not unusual to have a walker.

    8. Lauren*

      It’s a huge thing where I live. It’s considered general best-practices if you have a job that doesn’t enable you to come home during the day to let a dog out to hire a dog-walker, and frankly it’s considered part of the cost that you choose to bear when you choose to get a dog. There are plenty of flyers in places like apartment buildings or coffee shops, and there are even exchanges and apps. I even heard of one which is like an “Uber for Dogwalkers” where you could find out if someone could do it for you on the spot, but I don’t know how the entry in your home works. But yeah, exceedingly common, and it’s “if you can’t afford it, you don’t get the dog in the first place.”

      1. The Original K.*

        My friend uses an app to find dog walkers – I forget which one. They don’t need one every day (her husband works in health care so his schedule is sometimes such that he can be home for the dog when she’s not, as she works “standard business hours”) so when they do need one, that’s what they use.

    9. Working Mom Having It All*

      This feels like somewhat of a culture divide, and somewhat of an urban/rural and even what type of work you do sort of divide.

      Most of the people I know who hire dog walkers and the like live in urban areas where you can’t just leave your dog in the yard or get a doggy door. They also have long commutes, so they can’t go home to walk their dog at lunch. I also feel like this tends to be more of a thing for people who work longer hours, or who don’t have immediate family at home to walk the dog (for example a stay at home mom, kids home in the afternoon after school, etc). Dogs can’t be left alone for 10-12 hours a day.

    10. Lexi Kate*

      I am in my later 30’s now and as a kid I remember having a dog walker come during the day while my parents worked, everyone on our block used the same girl. I think the day care is newer we started using doggie day care with our aussiedoodle it was recommended weekly after her obedience training and was recommended until she is about 2. I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, I’m not calling anyone poor. However, I most peoples stance on this depends on your social scale. At least here there are no doggie day cares in the lower housing areas they are mainly in the upper middle class area’s.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    I love dogs and they don’t bother me in an office. But I have to agree Alison is right: The basic principle is that people’s ability to do their jobs trumps people’s desire to bring dogs to work.

    The only other way I could see this working is if there is a ‘dog sitting’ area available alongside or partially outside of the office were all the dogs brought in to work can be confined to one area. That way, the dog-adverse people wouldn’t even have to go near the dogs, but it’s still a nice perk of a dog-friendly office.

    1. Clisby*

      That would be a great perk. Just like on-site childcare is a great perk (assuming it’s well run.) Parents aren’t distracted by having their kids in the office all day, but can go check on them during breaks.

  22. Save One Day at a Time*

    Also, when Jane took the job, this perk didn’t exist. So even though she would be under no obligation to opt-out if she was offered a job with a dog friendly office, like Alison said, some people choose to. In this case, the dog friendliness is being forced upon her. It wasn’t something she opted in to at all.

  23. annalisakarenina*

    I feel for Jane because this is a new twist to her work environment (I can’t even call it a perk because animals in an office gross me out), and something that applies to the working space and not the company, specifically.

    Are there limits to how often you can work from home? If so, can Jane have more flexibility on those limits — and can the others who also would prefer not to work around dogs for various reasons?

    Also, Lucille was pretty inconsiderate for bringing her dog up for Friday drinks.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      OP explained Lucille was not inconsiderate plus the requirements are the dog is to be with someone.

  24. AnonsForThis*

    Genuine question for any ADA/employment lawyers lurking out there. Alison says “or move out of the co-working space to one where you have more control.” Is that really a “reasonable” accommodation under the ADA? The others make perfect sense — having perhaps a dog-free floor if possible, working from home, etc — but I can’t see the ADA requiring an entire company to relocate.

    1. KayEss*

      If an employee say, uses a wheelchair, and the business is located in an inaccessible location for them? And the job requires being on-site? And the site location itself isn’t critical to the job and business (i.e. not “tour guide for historic house full of stairs”)? Yes, a legally reasonable accommodation can be for the business to be required to either invest in physical modifications to their location or move.

      “We rent/bought this outside vendor product/service/space and whoops it turns out there’s an ADA problem with it, but hey, it’s not OUR fault” doesn’t mean you get to throw up your hands and ignore the problem, it means you have to address that you made a bad purchasing/contract decision.

      1. Observer*

        Nope. It would really depend on why the company moved and what it would cost to move out.

        1. KayEss*

          It depends on a lot of things. I’m responding to what seems to be a common thread of “if the company has invested some abstract large amount of time/money in an unworkable thing, it is by definition unreasonable for them to be penalized for it.” That’s not the case.

          I literally worked for a place where 10,000+ people were using a very common suite of software tools. The place wound up in court because it turned out that software was not accessible to blind/low vision users. (This was, to be fair, an industry where that kind of compliance is more highly policed and violations are more likely to be reported and penalized. It also wasn’t abstract—there was at least one completely blind person who had recently joined the user base, though they weren’t part of the lawsuit.) It didn’t matter that we had invested time and money in getting this software set up and configured for 10,000+ users, and that changing it would be a huge pain. If another accommodation acceptable to the court couldn’t be found, we’d have to suck it up and change. In the end, an acceptable solution was reached that involved the vendor improving the software, because they wanted their product to continue to be used in this large industry sector and ignoring a public lawsuit in which a client was penalized for the software’s failures was going to be bad for their business. Part of the process was also a thorough vetting of our other outside vendor software products (not to mention our home-grown systems, which were a nightmare) with an eye toward renegotiating or ending contracts on anything that wasn’t up to snuff. The entire purchasing process was overhauled, because we had been lax and got dinged for it.

          Now, maybe if the costs of all that had been like… 80% of our operating budget or something and a legitimate threat to the survival of the business, the outcome would have been different. (I’m sure it was a significant amount, but I wasn’t personally privy to that info.) It’s up to the court. But there’s no magic amount of business investment that grants immunity.

          1. Observer*

            Something to realize with the software not being accessible for low vision / blind users. It’s a bit of a different issue, because it’s been years since it’s made any sense for software to be so inflexible that it can’t be made accessible to blind users. On the other hand, blind and low vision users ARE something that any company should expect to run into, especially when you have that many users.

            I’m not saying that it’s impossible that the company would be expected to move, if this went into court. But, all things considered, I think it’s unlikely.

      2. AnonsForThis*

        The situation is completely different. The basic accessibility provisions of the ADA are already published and promulgated — employers know in advance that they must be met. They don’t know in advance of specific, individual ADA accommodations for various disabilities they may run across. I am not an ADA lawyer/professional, but I do know finding a reasonable accommodation is supposed to be an interactive process, not a dictation on either side.

        But I am not actually trying to argue one side or the other here — I’m trying to find out from someone with more actual knowledge than I have if this is, or is not, a reasonable accommodation.

        Alison seemed to answer it better above — if the company is on a 6 months lease, it could be a reasonable accommodation to move when the lease is up. Having to break a long-term lease could very well not be reasonable.

        1. KayEss*

          My understanding from working in ADA-adjacent spaces and talking to a couple lawyers is that basically in a lot of situations you can’t know what “reasonable” will legally be until it’s in front of a judge.

          You want to avoid that by working out an alternate solution, because there are some sectors (digital accessibility, for instance, which is what I’m most familiar with) where there isn’t enough established case law to make a prediction.

          1. AnonsForThis*

            I agree it makes the most sense to try to accommodate — you never want to have to go to court. But it seems to me a good accommodation will be hard to manage if Jane can’t even be on the same floor as a dog. Unless the company rents the whole floor, Jane is always at risk of another company’s dog being there. Hence my curiosity about whether moving is/isn’t reasonable. I suppose it is too specific for there to be much case law on it.

            1. KayEss*

              Yes, I would guess that it’s unlikely there’s an established legal precedent for this situation. We also have to consider the barriers to something like this actually reaching court—even if the employer is an unreasonable and unsympathetic hellscape, it’s very difficult for an individual to make a complaint like this and have it reach that point. The process is expensive, exhausting, and—particularly in a mental health case like this one, where there’s cultural disagreement over whether it’s a “legitimate” disability at all—likely to subject you to a lot of hostility. Unfortunately, most Janes are probably going to wind up devoting their efforts to finding new jobs, instead.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Yes – it is really a facts-and-circumstances thing. What is the lease – for how long, and what are the provisions for breaking it? How much is rent compared to what other commercial spaces are available? How much would moving cost? What are the finances of the company like? Are there other workable alternatives without moving? Sometimes, moving would be required. Sometimes, it would not. It’s not always going to be a financial hardship to move. It will cost money, of course – but will it cost so much as to be a financial hardship? Or is there something about the space they have now that is unique and necessary to their business? That requires looking into all the surrounding facts.

          1. Retired Accountant*

            I think that the way the question was framed, with Jane being terrified by a dog that she can’t see, is not in her physical presence, but on the same floor raises a lot of questions/rebuttals to the “just move” proposal. A company of the apparent size of the OP’s is likely going to require office space with some common area, even if only entryways and hallways. The company’s ability to make such spaces dog-free may be limited. If the company moves to a space on half a floor of an office building, and the other tenant becomes dog friendly, is it reasonable to expect the OP’s company to pick up and move again because dogs will be entering through the same entrance as the phobic employee? Where does it end?

    2. CatCat*

      It’s going to depend. The answer will be different for Google than for Tiny Tiny Teapots.

    3. jf*

      So if their dumb business decision had been to relocate to an “office” with only stairs, instead of an “office” full of dogs, could you see the ADA mandating they move?

    4. Dragoning*

      The ADA actually does cover physical accessibility for buildings and demands compliance.


      Yeah, actually.

      Even for older buildings created before it was a thing.

      1. AnonsForThis*

        Duplicating above answer, in case you are only following your thread. The situation is completely different. The basic accessibility provisions of the ADA are already published and promulgated — employers know in advance that they must be met. They don’t know in advance of specific, individual ADA accommodations for various disabilities they may run across. I am not an ADA lawyer/professional, but I do know finding a reasonable accommodation is supposed to be an interactive process, not a dictation on either side.

        But I am not actually trying to argue one side or the other here — I’m trying to find out from someone with more actual knowledge than I have if this is, or is not, a reasonable accommodation.

        Alison seemed to answer it better above — if the company is on a 6 months lease, it could be a reasonable accommodation to move when the lease is up. Having to break a long-term lease could very well not be reasonable.

        1. Dragoning*

          I don’t think things like “wheelchair accessible” or something actually falls under an accommodation (which is an example someone else used, and you replied to with the same statement). The ADA has construction requirements that must be met–if you choose a location that doesn’t meet them and you run afoul of someone who can’t use the building, then I don’t think the law is going to be especially friendly toward you.

          I’m fairly certain allergies are likely not in the ADA requirements (haven’t read them) for construction–but I feel if your environment is violating the ADA, then it’s reasonable to be expected to move if possible.

          1. AnonsForThis*

            When you say you feel it’s reasonable for them to be expected to move, do you have any expertise in this area? Have you run across cases like this before? I’m not trying to be rude or argumentative, I’m really curious if a business could be forced to move over something like this/has ever been forced to move (beyond all our opinions on what’s right/wrong/reasonable).

            I was hoping someone who has had actual experience working with ADA accommodations would turn up in the comments, but reading the other threads, it doesn’t seem like they have.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              In terms of building accessibility, that aspect of the ADA is not about “reasonable accommodation” – that is about the accessibility requirements certain buildings need to meet. The fix is going to be to actually *renovate the building* to comply. rather than have the tenant move their office. The building itself violates the ADA and would continue to violate the ADA even if a commercial tenant moved – the court’s analysis will focus on who between the landlord and the tenant has the obligation to renovate (generally the landlord, but some commercial leases effectively transfer that liability and obligation to the tenant, and sometimes it is a joint responsibility), and on whether the accessibility renovations are achievable.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                More coffee! Of course, you are asking about the Jane thing, not the immediately above construction issue. Ha.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              In general, accommodations (and not non-accommodation accessibility issues) are focused on the individual’s work, rather than the entire company, so they are generally smaller accommodations that affect the individual with the disability- allowing that worker to telecommute or move to a different office or position, for example. Company-wide examples of accommodations could involve improvements to the facility like updating ventilation or lighting. Requiring a company to just move is really unlikely – but because the situation with co-working is a different set-up than the usual, it is a theoretical risk. And there are fact scenarios that could make it actually make sense (short term lease being the obvious one).

              1. fposte*

                I do wonder if case law is going to start emerging about co-working spaces, since it really is a different model.

  25. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    If this is not too off-topic how does Jane cope in the real world where there no control over dogs if her phobia is strong enough to bring her to tears just knowing that a dog is on the floor? I’m asking out of genuine concern because dogs are everywhere now and even in unexpected places. The other day I was standing in line in a fast food place and noticed a small dog in a backpack.

    1. Zephy*

      Jane probably has coping strategies that she can use while going about her personal business. She can talk herself down, distract herself until the dog leaves, or leave a public space herself. It’s not as easy to do those things at work – she might have to interact with the dog’s owner, which means getting closer to the dog, which may very well be more upsetting than just, say, seeing a stranger walking their dog while she’s driving or standing in line at Starbucks. She doesn’t have to interact or share space with that person.

    2. Arachnophobic Ann*

      A) Jane’s place of work is in the real world.

      B) Outside of work she has a lot more control and ability to leave a situation or location once she becomes aware of a dog’s presence. At work she is effectively trapped in that space.

    3. One legged stray cat*

      I have a friend who has a severe dog phobia. She saw a dog ripping someone’s kneecaps off as a child (other than humans, dogs are the number one mammal that kills people, so it is not that unusual, though in farness many killings are from rabies) and she would definitely cry if she was on the same level as a free roaming dog. Therapy for this never helped and in some cases made it worse.

      When a dog has a leash or is reasonably contained, she maintains some sense. She will cross the road, when she sees a dog with a leash walking towards her. If it doesn’t have a leash she would just run into traffic to get away from it, even if cars are coming. She avoids places she thinks dogs will be, like certain parks, hikes, farmers markets, ect. Service dogs are one of the few dogs she can deal with since she knows they are extremely well trained. Even then she will maintain as much distance as possible. It has definitely been harder for her with the rise of real and fake emotional support dogs in the last five years. Dogs are popping up everywhere where you wouldn’t expect and she now has to leave the store/ airplane/ restaurant if she thinks there is a chance for the dog to get loose. People do sometimes get pretty arrogant about their dogs and blind to how others might not want to be around them. When people catch wind that she is nervous around their dog, most proclaim how friendly their dog is and push their dog at her. It is ridiculous.

      1. Pescadero*

        “other than humans, dogs are the number one mammal that kills people”

        This is not true – at least in the USA.

        Dogs kill ~40 people a year in the USA. Deer kill ~200 people a year in the USA.

        Horse and cattle also kill more people than dogs.

        1. One legged stray cat*

          Ah, I was talking about the world. Around 25,000 deaths in the world are from dogs. Next closest are hippos at around 500. The deer deaths are from people hitting a deer with a car, which I don’t think were included in the statistic I was looking at since it is the driver’s who technically caused the death. Dogs in the US are usually given rabies shots and the larger ones are usually better trained, making deaths from dogs much less common in the US. That being said dog attacks are still pretty common here. I have seen four of them myself against a human. Most were involving a small dog so there was no death involved but they were scary. I was just trying to make the case that being afraid of dogs is not unreasonable and many people

        2. fposte*

          When you say “killed by a horse,” do you mean “killed in equestrian-related accidents”? Because the latter would be my understanding of the numbers, and I think it’s slightly misleading to place accidents caused by sport falls alongside attacks by an animal.

          1. Ellie*

            Horses are the most common ‘animal kills’ where I live, in Australia too. They generally occur when someone walks behind one and gets kicked, or when someone is trampled.

            We have poisonous spiders, snakes and jellyfish, as well as crocodiles, sharks, etc. But horses and dogs are way up high on the list because they are a part of our lives – we have way more contact with them, than with those other animals.

          2. Pescadero*

            No – it is generally farmers get kicked/trampled/crushed by horses/cattle when working around them.

  26. LCL*

    This subject is so incendiary because it involves some contradictory principles. On the one hand, in the US we have to comply with the ADA and all of the other employee protection laws. This is a good thing, and we have seen all too often what happens when employee protection is ignored. On the other hand, those of us who are old WERE taught that you kept your fears to yourself, that being frightened of anything wasn’t wrong, but you didn’t have the right, once you were an adult, to have other adults change their behavior because of your fears. If Alison says complying with the ADA requires accommodating dog phobic people, she is the SME and she is right. But, it really sucks that one person can change the policies of an entire office.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      On the other hand, those of us who are old WERE taught that you kept your fears to yourself, that being frightened of anything wasn’t wrong, but you didn’t have the right, once you were an adult, to have other adults change their behavior because of your fears.

      If you were taught that people should just gumption their way around a legitimate disability without being a bother, you were taught wrong.

      1. LCL*

        The adults having authority instructed people, in general, that phobias weren’t a legitimate disability. I no longer believe that, nor many other archaic ideas. I do believe that many people had a rather limited idea of what disability is, and some still do. Witness the weekly internet posts re confrontations over accessible parking.

    2. ScienceTeacher*

      I had a HUGE phobia of driving and didn’t get my license until I was 26. My saint of a boyfriend taught me and got me through the hyperventilating and crying stages.
      I did not expect my coworkers to stop going out after work- I took an Uber or public transit or got a ride. I selected out of lots of jobs because they required a license and I didn’t have one. I missed out on tons of opportunities that entailed driving offsite and people knew I couldn’t go to certain meetings that we drove to.
      ALL OF THAT WAS ON ME. It wasn’t and shouldn’t have been anyone else’s job to deal with my personal issues. I can’t even imagine the degree of entitlement it would take to demand that all activities be places I could walk/bike and and no one grumble that I never drove. That was and is 100% my issue and it should not and generally did not affect my coworkers.

      1. Observer*


        If someone were in a wheel chair, would you say that they had a “sense of entitlement” if they expected their employer to have mandatory meetings in wheelchair accessible spaces? If they expected at least a significant number of employer sponsored activities in a wheelchair friendly space?

        Also, you call yourself ScienceTeacher, but you clearly do NOT know what “huge phobia” actually means.

      2. animaniactoo*

        On the other hand, alot of the things that you’re talking about are intrinsic to the job function and the ability to do the job. The ones that were optional were on you to accommodate because they were common functions of an office and it was up to you to figure out how to handle that – or ask for help in figuring out how to handle it rather than asking for a change.

        Personal pets in the workplace are generally not necessary to job function. So from that standpoint, me, as somebody with allergies, should not be applying to work at PetCo where the animals on premises ARE an intrinsic part of the company function. But it also doesn’t mean that I should be required to be exposed to them during the mandatory hours I am needed in the office at a job where they don’t need to be on premises for anything other than a personal perk that some people might like. That’s my issue, but it’s not on me to handle on my own, since the existence of it is also the company’s issue in terms of having employees being able to function and do their jobs.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        But that was your choice. Jane’s workplace doesn’t need to be dog-friendly to function. This shouldn’t be imposed on her for the luxury of others.

        1. Wing Leader*

          But yet her feelings should be imposed on everyone else in her building? Okay then.

          1. Dragoning*

            It’s not her feelings. In fact, no one actually has to know this is about Jane at all–they just need to know they have to adjust their dog-bringing schedule because a coworker has a disability.

          2. Washi*

            Jane’s position and duties presumably meet some sort of business need. I question whether the need to have dogs in the workplace is meeting a business need of equal importance.

            Are you also against fragrance-free workplaces? That’s another case where someone’s medical need trumps another person’s desire to wear perfume.

      4. Jessie the First (or second)*

        So you’re arguing that Jane has an unbelievable degree of entitlement because she wants to continue coming to the office to do her job, to a job where animals are not part of the business in any way, to a job where until recently no dogs ever came, to a job where the presence of dogs is a sudden and unexpected change…. and she is entitled because she is hoping to find a compromise – a compromise that doesn’t result in no one ever bringing a dog in to the office? Finding a compromise is entitlement?

        The ADA is about finding a way to allow employees to continue working, without causing an undue hardship to the business. By definition, that means it is something that won’t be a dealbreaker for the company, and it would allow her to continue to do her job. Reasonable accommodation. It’s a weird thing to argue against.

      5. Shiny*

        I don’t drive because of a disability–so yeah, I do expect that my employers accommodate that, as long as I’m not applying to a position as a driver. I fail to see how this is any different than had your phobia risen to the level of a disability?

    3. One legged stray cat*

      There is a difference between being afraid of something and having a real phobia. I used to say I had a phobia of chalk (I hate the sound of scratching to the point I get irritated in a room with a chalkboard) and of public speaking (I get nervous and have a hard time getting my words out) until I met someone with an actual phobia. The person with the real phobia had a complete personality change when confronted with her fear (usually very stoic and fearless, but then would be reduced to tears and hiding in a locked bathroom) and would have little control over what her body did. I no longer toss around the word phobia lightly anymore.

    4. Just Jess*

      This is a reply to both LCL and Wing Leader. I think I’m starting to understand a new mindset. It’s something like “One person shouldn’t ask for everyone to change things just for them” or “If things were already working fine then it’s stupid for everyone’s lives to be changed by one person. Everyone hates being inconvenienced.” Am I correct?

      Different generations and different cultures are moving towards people directly asking for things that work for them so that we can find something that works for everyone. At some point there must have been women who changed policies of previously all-male offices.

      1. fposte*

        You’ve put your finger on something I was thinking about. I think you’re right that we’re moving away from “The people who were here first don’t have to change” as an unbending rule, very much because of what it was used to justify. But I also think it still exists in terms of defining an office culture–if you’re in an office where everybody chats (or puts papers on chairs), I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation for the office to change its behavior merely because of a new person’s preference for quiet (or papers in an inbox). So we don’t have a simple inviolate rule to replace “Whoever was first wins”; instead, I’d say it depends on a combination of the law, workplace culture, and job necessity.

        1. Just Jess*

          OK, but if this is a “We don’t want to have to change for you” mindset clash, then I have a couple of follow ups. First, these are likely to be the same people who are still using typewriters in the office (unironically) because they aren’t changing for anyone. Second, I’m guessing the mindset is driven by resentment from the thought “Well I needed X and never bothered anybody about it! Why should the whole office have to change for this person?” The responses that make it look like people care more about having a dog-friendly office than a productive and comfortable co-worker have got to be coming from some fascinating inner monologues.

          1. fposte*

            I think your characterization can be true with some situations, but I think it’s also unfairly characterizing the benefits for people with dogs. Aside from the saving of couple hundred bucks or so per month, there are the demonstrated emotional benefits of contact with your pet, and there are strong indications that having your pet at work increases morale. Throw in the likelihood that some people bringing their pets in have their own anxieties, etc. that may not rise to ADA level but are soothed by having their pets there.

            I still think Jane’s phobia is what deserves to be accommodated, but I don’t think people with dogs are heartless and selfish for considering dog-friendliness to be a high value to them and to be upset about losing it.

            1. Just Jess*

              My reply is a little tardy with the new day, but I am reflecting on the mindset of people who don’t think changes should be made for one person (even if it’s them and they really need it) in this situation. It’s not necessarily about the dog owners who would have to pay dog owner costs if the policy changed. The “don’t change our culture” people are also siding with them because people hate losing perks even more than they hate change. They are two separate pro-dog-office arguments and one isn’t actually about dogs.

  27. Lurker*

    I’m a normal lurker but had to comment on this. I think people are largely ignorable the ADA’s qualification that accommodation be REASONABLE. Putting aside whether or not this person’s phobia rises to the level of ADA qualification (let’s assume it does), Allison and others suggesting that a business relocate just for one employee is absurd and not reasonable. We don’t know the terms of the leasing arrangement (possibly tens or hundreds of thousands on the line depending on size) or what the business can and can’t demand- but we do know the building is dog friendly and the company can’t control the other occupants. It’s one thing to request no animals in food spaces and to request non dog spaces, but if the coworking space refuses, and Jane’s phobia makes her unable to perform the essential functions of her job (and having to leave because of being on the same floor, even out of sight and in an enclosed space seems like it would make this so), she is sufficiently SOL unless she can work from home permanently.
    All that said, the ADA has specific steps to accommodate a disability, and if the business does this and it doesn’t work out, Jane finds a new job.

    1. TiffanyAching*

      I just want to point out that sometimes what the ADA deems “reasonable” and what regular people deem “reasonable” aren’t always the same thing. Same thing with “undue hardship.” So while a regular person might think that having to move to a different building would be an undue hardship, the EEOC might think that it’s NOT an undue hardship if they received a complaint. Then again, they might uphold the decision.

      1. Observer*

        This is true. But given the genuine costs of most relocations, moving would very frequently be seen as “undue hardship”.

      2. animaniactoo*

        I’m not sure if I haven’t noticed your username before, or just haven’t run across it. But I have to applaud, and just wanted to check in on how the Nac Mac Feegle are doing?

    2. Clisby*

      But the reasonableness of an accommodation has to do with whether the accommodation would be detrimental to the core business. For example, if you’re deathly allergic to peanuts, a restaurant shouldn’t have to ban all peanut products just so you can work there. Dogs are not part of the core business of an office, so banning dogs (other than service dogs) would be an entirely reasonable accommodation.

  28. John*

    Is there not a limit to irrational phobias you have to accommodate? Like, I have a huge fish phobia, if my employer puts in a fish tank can I ask for accommodation? I’m afraid of heights, what if my employer decides to move into the upper floors of a high-rise?

    I’m all for reasonable accommodation but I don’t know how you reasonably accommodate someone’s irrational fear.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Like, I have a huge fish phobia, if my employer puts in a fish tank can I ask for accommodation?

      As long as fish tanks full of fish are not part of the core business, yes.

      I’m afraid of heights, what if my employer decides to move into the upper floors of a high-rise?

      Most height phobias are actually edge phobias. You could ask to be seated in the middle of the floor, away from the windows. If you need to attend meetings that can’t be held away from windows, you can ask to call in from your desk.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Both of the conditions you described are easily accommodated. A fish tank is an optional decoration and not necessary for the business; they don’t have to have it. In a high-rise, you can be seated away from/not facing windows.

      Accommodations have nothing to do with whether the phobia is rational or irrational (and in fact, phobias are by definition generally not rational). It has to do with whether it presents a significant hardship for the company or materially interferes with the core requirements of the employee’s role.

    3. yup*

      Why is a fear of dogs irrational? I had a major dog phobia as a child and my parents unknowingly had me go through exposure therapy to overcome it. I no longer have a phobia of dogs, but am still not comfortable around them. AND… I have been attacked by a pitbull with no owner in sight as an adult – I didn’t get hurt, but it kept pouncing on me and trying to knock me down. I have also had a small dog grab my leg while going on a run – this one was on a leash and the owner grabbed it and while I didn’t get hurt, I could have.

      Just because a lot of people love dogs, doesn’t mean they don’t have their REAL risks.

      1. jf*

        Don’t waste time trying to reason with dog people. Their fear of not being around dogs is irrational.

      2. Blue Bunny*

        Agreed, fear of dogs is in no way irrational. People being badly injured or killed by dogs is a constant news item.

        1. blackcat*

          If I were not severely allergic, I would be A Dog Person (TM). I love all animals. I was raised around livestock. My husband still cringes that the time I scooped up a crow with a broken wing without thinking, kept it inside in a crate overnight, and took it to a wildlife hospital in the morning.

          But that love of animals comes with a healthy respect for what they can do. Dogs, even small dogs, can do a lot of damage. I am generally very good at reading animal body language, so I’m rarely surprised by an animal’s behavior. But for people who aren’t, animals’ aggression can seem random, which makes them much more frightening.

          Dogs are wolves, man. Wolves. Domesticated, generally even tempered, but still wolves deep down.

      3. Close Bracket*

        Some phobias are rooted in events that took place in the past, and some are not. Dogs have real risks, and some people have irrational dog phobias. Both can be true.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I’m no longer particularly afraid of dogs (I was when I was little but we had pet dogs and I worked for a veterinarian for a number of years. I’m still cautious but I can read dog body language plenty well enough to not be afraid of them any more, unless I should be) but I still don’t want to work with them and would be annoyed if my employer suddenly switched us to an unnecessarily dog-full workplace.

      5. Clisby*

        Fear of dogs can be real without being at the level of a phobia. I am not dog-phobic, and don’t even mind being around some dogs (the ones where the owner says “sit” and the dog sits. And doesn’t bark. And doesn’t even think of getting up until the owner says it’s OK. And never, ever jumps on people or tries to lick their hands or whatever.) Still, in general, I have a mild fear of any strange dog. They are inherently dangerous – obviously, a German shepherd is more dangerous than a toy poodle, but they all can hurt you. I wonder how many people would be OK with a snake-friendly office, where people could bring in their Burmese pythons to slither around. I’d way rather share an office space with a python than a dog, but that’s just me.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Inherently dangerous? Are you kidding me? Don’t tell me, you’re one of those people that believes all pit bulls are evil, right?

          Dogs are not inherently dangerous. The only time they are dangerous is when they have been abused or taught by a person to be that way.

          By the way, I’d be fine with a snake-friendly office.

          1. blackcat*

            I believe all natural predators (cats, dogs) and large prey animals (cows, horses) are inherently dangerous, yes. So are people, frankly. If my even tempered, super gentle cat gets scared and cornered, I bet he could do some serious harm to a person.

            I don’t know if a random dog (or person) is going to be gentle and friendly. I look for cues–body language, facial expressions, etc. I don’t live my life in fear, but I definitely keep a healthy sense of awareness, that a bad interaction can turn sideways really quickly.

            1. fposte*

              I think it probably depends on what we mean by “dangerous” here. “Capable of causing injury”? Then yes, absolutely, and we need to make sure we include all the cars in the parking lot, which are more dangerous than dogs. “*Likely* to cause injury”? I don’t know that I’d accept that, but I don’t know how injurious something would have to be before I’d go with “likely,” either.

              1. blackcat*

                I’m cautious in parking lots for a reason! I’ve been backed into (as a pedestrian). So, yeah, the cars in the parking lot count as inherently dangerous.
                I’m also cautious around animals, as a rule. And I’m an animal lover!
                I don’t think general fears of animals are unreasonable.

                1. fposte*

                  I think wariness of animals is absolutely reasonable. Phobias, though, are a whole nother animal (sorry, couldn’t resist). Speaking as a phobia suffer myself, I know the temptation of the “but it can actually hurt people!” self-justification for a panic response that goes way beyond the rational. There’s a big gap between “I don’t know horses or this horse so I’m going to stay out of range and hold still” and “I saw a picture of a horse and now my blood pressure is elevated” (a pretty common situation with a phobia).

          2. pangolin of the hills*

            Yes, dogs are inherently dangerous. They are not evil. But they are dangerous. Even small dogs have sharp teeth and can behave aggressively, particularly when they are around strange people and strange dogs. Dogs do not have to be taught to be aggressive. They are predators. Aggressiveness is in their DNA to one extent or another, though different dog breeds may typically express aggressive traits more or less and in different ways. Feral dogs which have had zero human contact or training will attack animals and people. Friendly pet dogs will attack animals they perceive as prey, like chickens or cats. Friendly pet dogs have also been known to bit humans, including children, up to the level of serious injury, because dogs cannot talk and must communicate physically, by hiding or growling or yes, biting.

            It is not reassuring when people do not train their dogs and/or let them run loose to jump on people. I am aware that some dog owners find this doggy enthusiasm cute. However, as a stranger to this dog, you cannot predict if it will be aggressive, not to mention that past friendliness is not necessarily a predictor of future friendliness. Even an entirely friendly dog that is not being aggressive at all can cause serious injuries by jumping at people (imagine the dog knocking someone over, or making them drop something that causes injuries). And for that matter, even an entirely friendly dog that is not being aggressive and does not harm someone by accident could still make someone uncomfortable – a dog jumping on you is at the very least distracting!

            1. Clisby*

              +1. And dogs’ dangerousness is amplified by how often they’re around people. I suppose you could also say raccoons are inherently dangerous – but when I start seeing frequent news articles about raccoons attacking people, I’ll get worried. We’ve had them in our yard more than once, but they always run away when we come out, so I’m not worried about them. Although I wouldn’t get too close.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Raccoons are inherently dangerous and there are plenty of news articles (recent ones to boot) about raccoon attacks. Yes most will usually run from humans, but as with most animals under certain conditions, they will and do attack humans. I have seen raccoons that are raised as a pet and are friendly and okay to be around. My uncle had a dog that was raised as a guard dog. The dog would stay in the back of a pickup truck and guard our belongings. The dog was a sweet as could be with people it knew. But if a stranger tried to get into the bed of the truck it would bark/bite. One time my dad almost got bit because he reached into the truck with just his hand and did not show his face right away. The dog went to bite, but once it realized it was my dad it backed down.

                Saying a something is inherently dangerous is not the same as saying it is likely to cause damage. Most pet dogs are friendly but as with any animal under the right conditions they can and do attack. Dogs can make mistakes and interpret a friendly gesture as a menacing gesture.

                1. fposte*

                  Then I think at this point “inherently dangerous” is a meaningless phrase, because it applies to *everything*. It can all hurt you. Mind you, that’s not a bad reminder, because people do often treat animals (and electricity, and water, and stepstools) as if they could never be anything but harmless.

          3. Shad*

            Not inherently dangerous?
            I love dogs, and that’s inaccurate. Dogs have sharp claws and sharp teeth and frequently don’t realize how those teeth and claws can affect others. Especially with a young dog, those sharp teeth and claws can easily do accidental damage in what the dog thinks is a friendly encounter.
            Additionally, danger is a matter of capacity, not intent. Most dogs may not act on that capacity, but every dog most certainly has it.

      6. Delphine*

        It’s probably one of the most rational phobias you could have…just the other day a child was fatally mauled by a group of dogs he regularly took care of. Dogs are wonderful and they also have the potential to be incredibly dangerous.

      7. DogsArePredators but AlsoCuteIGuess*

        Agreed. It baffles me that people don’t understand that it is COMPLETELY reasonable to be afraid of an animal (of any size) with sharp meat-ripping teeth. I know very few pet owners who haven’t been nipped (even a bit) by their beloved friend at some point. But most just assume that everyone else is fine with taking that risk because Fido is also friendly the rest of the time.

      8. Pescadero*

        Dogs absolutely have real risks.

        …but anyone who has bothered to look at the statistics can see that the risk level is tiny compared to things we regularly do everyday.

        Lightning kills about 50% more people per year than dogs in the USA. We legally execute 2x as many people a year as are killed by dogs.

        1. Clisby*

          1) I’ve never heard of lightning-friendly offices.
          2) How many people every year are injured by dogs?

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          If people really thought about it, the most dangerous thing we deal with are other humans.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Phobias are irrational. That is the actual definition. And if severe enough to be considered a disability, then yes you absolutely are required to make reasonable accommodations. And reasonable accommodation means simply that it isn’t an undue burden for the business – you know, it isn’t so expensive that the business can’t afford it, it doesn’t conflict with the actual business of the company, that sort of thing.

      In, like, 99.99% of business, it wouldn’t be a burden to simply not have a fish tank. (Aquariums and fish stores make up the other 0.01%)

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes. I’ve had problems with lifeguards, swim instructors, and camp counselors freaking the eff out (running around, screaming, fleeing their supervisory area) because they’re afraid of bugs/pigeons/whatever.

      We’d respond with appropriate pest control, and then the person would be warned that if they failed to properly supervise their group of children ever again they would be disciplined. Legal and the insurance company would back us up on this.

    6. fposte*

      Yes, of course you could ask for an accommodation if your employer puts in a fish tank. Why would you think you couldn’t? How many businesses would be burdened by not having a fish tank?

      Basically, I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. It’s not about the rationality of the phobia (a phobia is inherently irrational because of its degree, regardless of its source), it’s about whether an employer can accommodate it or not without an undue hardship. A disabling phobia of plastic? Probably not something an employer could accommodate without undue hardship. A disabling phobia of tapirs? Most U.S. employers could handle that one just fine. It’s got some similarities there to the issue of religious accommodation–it’s not for the employer to judge the religious belief, just to assess whether her workplace can accommodate it.

    7. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think this would have to rise to the level of ADA compliance, or if it doesn’t, to an extent there kind of needs to be compromise on both sides. Everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that this is an ADA thing, and while it might be… my guess is that it probably isn’t. Because having a phobia so severe that it is a documented disability that requires accommodation via the ADA is probably exceedingly rare.

      1. fposte*

        Post ADAAA it’s really not, though, and it’s often too grey to be able to safely declare without knowing more about the specifics and, frankly, having a relevant law degree (which I don’t). If it “substantially limits” one or more major life activities, which includes work, it’s likely to be covered by the ADAAA. If Jane can’t attend meetings with dogs on the floor, that may well meet the standard right there.

  29. Relia*

    I agree with Alison’s response to keep the dogs away. But in the interim, what if the company discreetly offers Jane therapy or psychiatric help so that she can possibly overcome her fear of dogs? That would help her in her life both inside and outside of the office. It seems sad to go thru life with such fear. This could be really helpful to her and give her the motivation to do so.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty unsavory and boundary crossing to offer someone therapy or mention it to someone. If she brings it up specifically, then it may be something you can point her towards an EAP setup if it’s available but treading into someone’s health, physical or mental is no-no-no-no.

    2. KayEss*

      Would you suggest that an employer set an employee with Type 2 diabetes up with a weight-loss counselor? That would help them in their life inside and outside the office, and help give them the motivation to do so.

      It would also be a gross, paternalistic and condescending overstep.

    3. yup*

      Apparently I am in the minority because I like this suggestion as long as it is up to Jane to accept/ reject the help and it’s more of a hey “this is a service we are willing to provide if you want it.” As for the comparison around diabetes, presumably the diabetic can still do their job effectively without treatment AND companies do pay for weight loss and nutrition counselors – it is just a self-select thing.

      As a former dog-phobic, I would be more embarrassed about my phobia than about being offered/accepting treatment, but sadly we regard mental health as something to be embarrassed about in this society.

      1. Dragoning*

        Jane seems to be able to do her job just fine without treatment, actually. Her dog is not a dog trainer or a dog groomer or a vet or whatnot. Her job does not actually seem to require contact with dogs at all. Her coworkers are imposing that on her.

      2. Preschool Teacher*

        Going with the diabetes metaphor, I imagine that this would be more comparable to saying “We know you need a bigger office chair, but have you considered seeing a nutritionist instead?” instead of just buying the appropriate chair. They are asking the employee to take on responsibility for the company’s choice.

  30. Sal*

    You say one option is to “let people who can’t be around dogs work from home” with a few caveats, but what if that person COULD work from home but would choose not to? I absolutely would not want to work from home – I know I wouldn’t concentrate well, I value talking things over in person even if it’s not strictly required for my job, etc. So would my desire to not work from home trump their desire to have me work from home so they could bring their dogs in?

    1. Jeanettetenet*

      Given that the entire building is dog friendly, this might be the only reasonable accommodation left if the building refuses the employer’s requests for dog free spaces. They aren’t required to break the lease.

      1. Joielle*

        I mean, they might be required to break the lease! “Reasonable accommodation” can mean very different things depending on the circumstances.

    2. Kay*

      I think that even if you don’t like the offered accommodation, if it does fix the problem (you could do all your work fine you just don’t like it) then they’re allowed to just offer that one according to ADA. The guidelines do say that the employer doesn’t have to go with the employee’s favorite option. Now is that the best way to operate? Idk.

    3. Observer*

      The ADA does NOT require that the company offer you your choice of accommodation. So, if it’s just a matter of you not liking to work at home because you don’t like IM, phone and Skype as much as in person meets, that’s too bad. On the other hand, if WFH means that you lose access to tools you really need to do your job, for instance, or loss aof access to better opportunities, that would be different.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      This also feels like excluding people from networking and relationship-building opportunities, not entirely like sex-segregated activies (not as extreme, obviously, but if I were allergic or dog-phobic and my option was to sneeze/be afraid or work from home most of the time, I would sorta feel like my employer was trying to get rid of me).

  31. UncontrollableScream*

    I’m one of those dog-phobic people, and am so empathetic towards Jane here. I obviously wouldn’t even apply to a place that started out dog-friendly because unleashed dogs give me the embarrassing crying (and involuntary screaming if they approach me) response, and I’d never be able to work if we switched over to pets everywhere. We did have a co-worker with a service dog, but it was always leashed and right beside him so I was able to sit at opposite ends of meeting rooms fairly chill (on the outside). Rationally, I get why this is a desirable perk for pet-lovers, but man, it is so hard that it’s becoming popular in workplaces for people who can’t control the inner dog terror, especially because most pet/ non-trained service animals are “free range” to approach any stranger. I hope the new scheduling plan helps in this case and just want to put in a plug for keeping even your friendly dog leashed and close by in open spaces- hearing “he’s friendly” as a strange dog runs up to me has never once stopped my panic.

  32. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I think that since this is a “new” thing and Jane has been there before this “perk” was put into place this is all about making sure Jane is taken care of and her needs are met.

    Now if you apply to a dog-friendly place and have a dogphobia, that’s a different ball of wax. You have a choice to make.

    Jane should not be put in a position where she has to think that she needs to move on, despite being there for X amount of time before this came into view! I think it’s incredible that everyone has discussed if they could check her schedule since everyone WFH a few days a week to know when it’s good to go.

    Like everything in life, you don’t have the ability to make the outside public/other companies take this into consideration. Which is rough but Jane has had to deal with that before, so hopefully she has other coping mechanisms in place but should feel good about her colleagues taking her condition seriously and watching out for her. That’s really a good team to have.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Now if you apply to a dog-friendly place and have a dogphobia, that’s a different ball of wax. You have a choice to make.

      Just to clarify this, if the phobia is protected under the ADA, legally your employer would need to accommodate you, and couldn’t just tell you that you have a choice to make.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It would be interesting to know if phobias are covered under ADA, I cannot imagine that they’d be classified as a disability but they are expanding on those all the time so perhaps they’ve gotten to that point.

        1. Natalie*

          The ADA does not list specific covered disabilities (by design), it covers any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          The definition has to do with the impact to major life activities, so yes, severe phobias can absolutely be covered.

        3. Chickena*

          It depends on the individual circumstances. A phobia that severely impacts someone’s major life activies would be considered a disability; for example, if someone was so afraid of dogs that they were unable to leave their house at all I would think that would count! A phobia that that doesn’t impact major life activities is not considered a disability; for example, someone who was phobic of heights but only when very high up outside is almost certainly not a disability under the ADA (so fine on the top floor of a high rise, fine in an airplane, fine on a 6ft ladder, phobic when out on a balcony on the 30th floor).

          1. fposte*

            *Could* be considered a disability, anyway; for a lot of these anything outside an actual court decision is spitballing. Same with “undue hardship.”

  33. Flower*

    I love dogs and I would love to be able to bring a dog to work or have other dogs there. And also, phobias and allergies absolutely take precedence. I’d try to organize with the building manager and/or other companies to have a dog-free floor that dogs aren’t even allowed to pass through, excepting by stairwell or elevator (it would be even better if that was where the Friday drinks were held). Even if they don’t want to accommodate your employee, it’s only a matter of time before they hire someone who needs accommodations around dogs. The co-working space makes it harder than of you were on your own, but the other companies should be able to be onboard for this.

  34. Lady Phoenix*

    I am growing more and more irritayed by these “dog friendly” offices (service animals obviously not included in my rant).

    Dog phobia is a very common fear (often caused by dog bites), so having to face dogs in a workplace that is not dog centric (vetenary, farming, animal welfare, etc) gives these people very few options to work in a heavily competitive environment. Also, dog allergies.

    Not only that, but it also makes it feel like—with many of the other “friendly perks”—this is the company’s way of convincing their employees to stay for longer hours and make work their home. Nooooooo!

    I mean, I like being surprised when a dog is brought in once in a blue moon. But I don’t want to be overrun by dogs—especially ill behaving dogs.

    1. Sarah N*

      Same here. I by no means have what I’d describe as a dog phobia, but I’m not a fan, and would definitely find it to be super distracting and annoying at work if random dogs were just hanging out near my desk or approaching me. I have one colleague who brings her (small, quiet) dog in on occasion but she keeps him in her office with the door shut so you basically would never know he exists. I feel like that is the only case where I’m okay with these pet friendly policies — if the business gives everyone private offices and people who bring in pets can keep them quiet and confined to their own space. That way someone who wants to go have some dog snuggles can knock on the door, but others don’t have to be bothered. Yet somehow, these policies seem to be implemented in the LEAST APPROPRIATE scenarios ever, like in open office plans or the recent letter where someone was refusing to take their dog out to pee.

      1. JaneB*

        Or my colleague who is often late or skips out of things for ten minutes to take her dog out to pee – yay for responsible dog ownership, but it takes longer than a smoke break & since were technically in a dog free building but this one is “so cute” and going to be certified as a welfare dog (??) it’s apparently ok. I used to be very afraid of dogs, now I would say that I do not like dogs in general but there are some I have come to know and find ok (my sister has dogs, and they are well trained, and I will even admit one of them is pretty cute). But NOT AT WORK. My early 20s self would have been constantly anxious knowing the dog is in the building & would have not gone to social things (it attends all social gatherings in the building), but in my 50s I can cook fine I just don’t like it – but we have hundreds of students coming through our building every day and I’m pretty sure at least one of them will be allergic or phobic…

        1. fposte*

          FWIW, if you’re in the U.S., a “welfare dog” isn’t a thing. There are therapy dogs, which are certified for visiting hospitals, etc.; maybe she’s gearing the pup up for that, but there’s no obligation for the workplace to house the dog because of it.

    2. Bananatiel*

      I love dogs. I’m currently having the worst puppy fever ever and wish I could own a dog right now. But I’m surprised people consider dog-friendly offices a perk so I agree with you! I’d never get anything done. That’s just a major distraction unless they’re crated/corraled somewhere which would seem to defeat the purpose of bringing them into work.

      I’ve never worked in a strictly dog-friendly office but people would bring their dogs in once in a blue moon and… I learned really fast that people have very different definitions of “well-behaved” which is a whole other conundrum that can be solved by just not allowing them unless they’re briefly visiting and supervised/leashed 100% of the time.

  35. Gymmie*

    This may be noted up comments, but the OP did say this was a new space. So it’s not like the coworker even had a choice of taking this job or not, which I still think shouldn’t have to be an actual choice, but in this case, she was just going along and then dogs in her workspace became a thing.

  36. Olive*

    I think they should just have a dog day, like casual Friday’s. Maybe they can have dog day Monday or even two days. And mandate it. Then Jane would know what days to work from home and the other workers can work from home on days when they can’t bring in their furry companions so as not to pay for dog sitting. Meetings can be scheduled accordingly.

    1. Bananatiel*

      Yeah– I agree with this– building a regular schedule so that it’s not on Jane to have to look and see when she can come in. I feel for the people that are excited about saving money but then maybe they can work remotely instead of Jane sometimes!

    2. Rumbakalao*

      I thought of this as well- but then you’re incentivizing Jane to be one of very few in the office on the non-dog days, and all the dog owners by themselves on the days that allow dogs. So then you still end up dividing the office and limiting Jane’s access to in person opportunities or collaboration/networking with people like the higher ups that started bringing pets in in the first place.

  37. 8DaysAWeek*

    I am leaning toward ending dogs in the workplace in this situation. I have a family member with a major phobia of dogs because she was attacked by one as a child. Dogs are cute and cuddly so it is hard to imagine someone being afraid of them. However I spun this another way…if you had a snake-friendly office, I couldn’t handle that. I would be on edge all day and wouldn’t be able to accomplish my tasks effectively. I wouldn’t be able to go into someone’s office or cube that had their pet snake with them. All day I would be worried if one got loose. And Jane may be feeling the same way about the dogs.
    So from that perspective, I understand where this person is coming from. Even if you could separate the dog people from the non-dog people, they may still have to work together and can their dogs be somewhere else while that is happening?

    1. Clisby*

      I’d be fine with a (non-venomous) snake-friendly office, but I understand that would freak a lot of people out. Including some people who are OK with dog-friendly offices, even though dogs are clearly more dangerous to people than snakes are.

      This is a good way to think about it. If you wouldn’t want your co-worker to be allowed to bring in her reticulated python, why would you think it’s OK for you to bring in your dog?

  38. Nanani*

    Considering that Jane was already working there before the company moved to the dog-friendly space, the pushback should be non-existent.

    Jane couldn’t self-select out of a dog-friendly workplace when it wasn’t a dog space at the time she was hired.
    Zero of this should be on Jane, yet it sounds like she’s already trying to minimize her genuine issue (“on the verge of tears” is not an acceptable compromise)

    OPs company may need to find another workspace.

  39. Anon re my company policy*

    I work for a very large company famously known for its dog-friendly policy. Kitchens and meeting rooms are no-dog zones. I have seen areas of a floor marked as zones for people with dog allergies. If the company does not lease the entire building (it is spread across numerous sites), then dogs are not generally allowed in that building.
    It makes a huge difference to people to be able to bring their dogs. The hours are long and intense. People simply would not be able to work as hard if they could not bring their dogs. The impact to the business would likely be significant.
    As a hypothetical (not related to my company), if a no-dog policy reduced productivity across the company by 25%, would that be a reasonable burden to a business to accommodate one person’s phobia?
    Personally, I was mostly terrified of dogs when younger, due to a bad incident as a toddler and then repeated incidents as a preschooler. However, I did get over it. I don’t have an answer for Jane or her organization.

    1. Clisby*

      If this very large company is in a very large city, surely there are dog-walking/dog-sitting services available to dog-owning employees. Problem solved.

      1. fposte*

        Though one could equally say about parental leave that surely there are babysitting/daycare services available to parents. That they exist doesn’t mean they’re an easy solution, especially for people who didn’t expect to need them.

        1. Clisby*

          About parental leave? This is apples and oranges. The correct analogy is that rather than bring your child in to work with you, you could find a daycare/babysitter/nanny.

          1. fposte*

            It’s not apples and oranges if it’s the mere existence of another service that means your work shouldn’t have anything to do with this household need. Yes, of course pets and children are not the same in law, and they shouldn’t be, but that’s why the two are different in what a workplace will do for them; that would be the same whether there were doggy daycares or not.

            BTW, we go over the “a child turned up at work!” discussion pretty frequently and have to point out that a short-notice daycare/babysitter/nanny can be virtually impossible to arrange.

            1. Clisby*

              But you weren’t comparing child daycare to dog daycare; you were comparing parental leave to dog daycare. Nothing at all alike.

      2. Anon re company policy*

        Not really, because the monetary benefit of not having to pay for these services is huge. Plus, for those employees who love dogs, this benefit is a huge morale booster. If, for example, 100 employees have to pay $40 per day so that one person does not have to be exposed to dogs, plus the lack of their dogs worsens their morale, then it’s not really a solution.

        1. Rumbakalao*

          I’m really curious how large this company is, and how many of them are actually ever bringing in their dogs.

    2. Chickena*

      I wonder if Jane would be comfortable on the same floor as a dog if there was a designated dog-free area; perhaps the issue with being on the same floor as the dog was because she was worried it could appear and run over at any time. Since OP mentioned that their company has reserved space, half of it could be dog free 100% of the time.

      Someone would definitely need to talk to Jane and see if that would work for her – it’s totally possible that it wouldn’t help at all. But if it did help, it might be a good solution that doesn’t require her to plan her days around days where dogs will be present, yet still allows people to bring their dogs whenever they want.

      Also, I hope the building has a policy that dogs in public spaces have to be leashed. Some dogs are perfectly behaved all the time, but most aren’t. I love dogs and would be thrilled to work in a dog friendly office, but I’d still prefer that dogs who are not behind a closed door be on a leash. I don’t want a dog to jump on me as I’m walking down the hallway or getting a cup of coffee.

  40. some dude*

    This made me think of a recent brouhaha at Howard University, where African American students objected to the mostly rich white neighbors walking their dogs on campus, which I believe led to a ban on dogs on campus. I saw a lot of people commenting in articles and on twitter about how the concept of dogs as children feels like white entitlement to them. I flew recently and there were more lap dogs than lap children on my flight. If I was allergic to dogs or had a phobia, I’d be really irritated to be on a flight with 10 yip dogs on peoples’ laps. I’m not anti-dog at all, but I think as a society we need to figure some things out before we treat them like little furry humans.

    1. Kay*

      Seeing as how in the first one the problem was the (mostly white) residents letting their dogs poop all over campus, and in the second one airlines regularly kill animals when put with cargo, I’m not sure the two totally work as parallel examples.

      1. Rumbakalao*

        This. Also, in an age where more people are choosing to have pets over children and many others are taking advantage of the popularization of service animals, let’s not reduce animal lovers to “entitled.”

    2. Beth*

      Some years back, I had a volunteer gig working with a small group of people visiting from Ghana. These were
      highly educated professionals who worked in the government and lived in Ghana’s capital city. They were visiting the US for an official event.

      The city in question has a LOT of pet dogs, and I found out very quickly that absolutely none of the people in the group liked dogs. Neither did any member of any of the other African groups at that event, as far as I could tell.

      I learned that not only were pet dogs extremely rare in Ghana, dogs in general had mostly very negative associations. One member of the group had been involved with the logistics of President Clinton’s 1998 visit to Ghana, and they had not been at all happy about the huge guard dogs that the Secret Service had brought with them (apparently without asking their hosts).

    1. Working from the park*

      Seems to me you don’t understand rather a lot about how employment laws work. Don’t worry, ignorance is curable.

      Being a jerk is usually less so, sadly.

    2. Observer*

      Well, the law CERTAINLY disagrees with you.

      I would also argue that common decency also disagrees with you.

      1. Student*

        Given that Jane has, according to the OP, specifically NOT complained or asked her co-workers to accommodate her in any specific way, the law says that it is currently Jane’s problem. By law, it becomes the company’s problem when she spells out what the issue is and asks for an accommodation from the company she works for.

        A decent manager would put two and two together and ask Jane about it, given the obvious signals she is emitting that the OP has picked up on that she needs some sort of accommodation. We don’t know if that has happened, though.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Actually, no. Once the employer is aware of the disability, they have an obligation to follow the ADA, whether or not the person has formally asked them to. (That assumes Jane’s phobia is severe enough to be protected under the ADA, but it sure sounds like it is.)

        2. Observer*

          You’ve got it backwards. The law most definitely requires the employer to engage in an interactive process to accommodate the employee, even if they haven’t officially asked for it. And Jane is not “emitting signals”. She has made it abundantly clear that she has a SEVERE issue that is genuinely affecting her ability to function in the workplace.

          There has been tons of case law on this.

          1. fposte*

            I think people can get a little lost in what can seem to be contradictory messages about the ADA: you can’t ask if an applicant has a disability, and you shouldn’t ask if your employee has x invisible disability. But there seems to be a bit of a myth that an employer therefore can and in fact should wait for some formal notification of a disability before they become responsible for accommodation, and in fact the law pretty sensibly has deemed that that’s not true, and making people jump through formal hoops when you’ve already know they meet the definition of disabled can end up being discriminatory in its own right.

    3. WellRed*

      If Jane was in a wheelchair and they moved into a space with no elevators is she also SOL?

      1. some dude*

        She shoulda thought of that before she got in a wheelchair or applied for a job at an office without an elevator instead of being all selfish and making it all about how SHE can’t walk and SHE can’t climb stairs. /s

    4. Delphine*

      Jane’s job is to work and if non-work things in the office are making it difficult for her to do her job then it’s the employer’s problem…they need to get rid of the non-work things so that their employees can do what they were hired to do.

  41. EmmaUK*

    It might be an idea to talk to Jane about this before trying to implement changes. From my understanding, she hasn’t even complained.

    1. Clisby*

      I don’t disagree, but going forward both this company and the company sharing the space surely are going to encounter this problem again.

  42. Tristan Callan*

    I love dogs but I can’t even begin to fathom why people think dog friendly offices are professional or appropriate.

    1. Loux in Canada*

      Right? Sure there are some dogs that are well behaved and just sleep all day, but otherwise they may bark, bother other people, bother other dogs (some dogs are quite territorial), poop/pee on the floor… just all sorts of things that are distracting to work and shouldn’t be present in an office.

      1. Celeste*

        If it’s raining then they bring muddy paws and wet coats in with them, and what if a new hire’s dog doesn’t get along with an existing staffer’s dog? Whose dog has to stay home? It feels like they can open the door to a lot of issues.

        1. Koala dreams*

          I’ve seen a cute solution to the muddy paws problem: two boxes at the entrance, one with clean towels and one where you put the dirty towels. The dog owner dries their dog with a towel when they get in. This was not in a work setting so that might be different.

  43. leya*

    i have to say, this site has completely changed my opinion on dogs in offices, and i think for the better. i don’t own a dog, but i like them just fine; allowing dogs in an office used to seem like a fun perk that i felt nebulously positive about. now it just seems like a bad idea all around.

    additionally, and this is me putting my tinfoil hat on, “dog-friendly” frequently seems to be the kind of “perk” that companies offer you in lieu of things like good work-life balance, robust benefits, and competitive pay. i’m not saying all dog-friendly offices are like that, but that’s my chosen conspiracy theory.

    1. KHB*

      I think there are a lot of “perks” like that, unfortunately. From where I sit, there’s a definite trend toward “modern benefits packages” that are filled with more and more fun, shiny objects and less and less real value. At least, that’s very much the direction that my office seems to be going.

      1. leya*

        yeah, part of this is informed by my partner’s brief (but not brief enough for our sanity) tenure at a startup. there were dogs in the office! and a shuffleboard table!! and a wine fridge!!! and ipads for reserving conference rooms!!!! and isn’t it all so fun!!!!!!! unfortunately, there were also a complete lack of communication, extremely bizarre and unreasonable expectations, and an almost willful misunderstanding of the audience for their product. it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth; they cared far more about style than substance.

        1. Alison Green fan*

          I’m wondering what Alison thinks about this comment, which I find very intriguing. Alison, is this your experience talking with folks at various start-ups? I’ve always wondered about the unlimited food, nap pods, etc. at so many tech companies, and whether this was in PLACE of, rather than in ADDITION to, your basic non-sexy but critical benefits like reasonable work hours, opportunities for promotion even at entry levels, transparency of leadership, etc.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s very common for those benefits to be offered because people are expected to spend way too many hours at work. But even when not that, they typically don’t have any relationship to things like opportunites for promotion or transparent leadership; companies that offer these “perks” do so independently of whether or not they have those other things. And in general, it’s pretty common for startups to be poorly managed, often because there are few checks and balances, and few people in leadership with significant experience running a company.

    2. Clisby*

      I agree. Honestly, it’s hard for me to see how being “dog friendly” is a perk even to dog owners. Sure, I don’t like dogs, but I love cats, and no way I would want to bring my cat in to work and have to take care of him there. I love my children, but I wouldn’t have wanted to take them in to an office – that would be a total time/energy suck that I can do without while I’m working (I worked from home when my 2nd child was born, and still hired a babysitter to come in a few days a week to take over until he was about a year old). There are dog sitters/walkers, just like there are day cares and babysitters – for a good reason.

      1. leya*

        i can see it working for some people – those being people who wouldn’t be any more distracted by their dogs than social media, or a coworker’s conversation, or what’s going on outside. i’m definitely not one of them (i’ve often wished i could bring my cat to work, but that’s only because i’d much rather hang out with him than, you know, do actual work) but i’m sure there are a lot of people who could have that level of discipline. however, it just seems like a poorly thought out policy in general, for a variety of reasons having to do with the fact that people who work in an office must do so around other people.

        1. Yorick*

          When I had a dog he liked to nap a lot, so bringing him to work wouldn’t have been very distracting

      2. CommanderBanana*

        They can be really distracting! My tiny one just snoozes in my lap, but my big one will whine until I bring my laptop upstairs and get into bed with her, because it’s not enough that I’m home – I also NEED to be snuggled in bed with her (in her opinion). Mainly because she’s comfiest in bed but I also can’t be in a different room, she has to have me in her sight line when I’m home.

        And I’m sometimes just overwhelmed by their cuteness and need to snuzzle them.

    3. Alfonzo Mango*

      It’s something that I thought I would love but now that I’m on this site I realize I am way too high maintence to deal with other people’s pets. It would become a BEC thing for me, I’m sure.

      1. leya*

        oh god, yeah. anyone who wasn’t able to control their dog to my liking would probably (unfairly) get knocked down a few pegs in my esteem.

    4. Celeste*

      Agree totally. I have visited one dog-friendly place, and I found them very distracting. I feel like whatever you need to do to take care of them while you work remotely is fine for you to deal with, but it might be a lot for non-dog owners to have to accept. I’m all for perks, but this one is too problematic.

      1. leya*

        definitely! it also (again with my tinfoil hat) feels like part of the slow slide toward blurring the line between work and home, fostering environments that prioritize work and productivity above all else. capitalism makes fools of us all!

    5. The Original K.*

      I am firmly anti-pets-in-office; I have self-selected out of jobs that allow pets, and will continue to do so. But I agree that there are perks out there that are really just ways to keep you on site longer. “You don’t have to go home to let the dog out, just bring the dog with you!”

      I don’t want a keg in the office; I want 401(k) matching and good health insurance, you know?

  44. Loux in Canada*

    Oh… this is tough. I am somewhat afraid of dogs and don’t really like them anyway (more of a cat person – cats don’t jump up on you, can’t push you over, and they don’t bark, which is really startling to me), and I would definitely opt out of any hiring process that said they had a dog friendly office. That said… it sounds like Jane has been there since before the move to this co-working space… so in my opinion the company should find a way to accommodate her. Maybe giving her some sort of office, or at least a cubicle with high walls and a gate? You know, so a dog can’t get to her or anything.

  45. WellRed*

    Poor Jane. She’s probably working on her resume as we speak. I say this as someone who likes the occassional dog visitor.

  46. Delphine*

    The co-working angle makes this more complicated–I’m glad the LW wrote in because I never considered how companies might have to grapple with their employees taking advantage of co-working space benefits.

  47. Student*

    This advice is missing something important – you (or rather, her boss) need to talk to Jane directly and clearly to find out what she needs to do her work. That is Step #1. Stop all the other stuff until you do that.

    Your office shouldn’t be guessing at what she needs behind her back. The ADA process can’t even start unless and until Jane actually says she needs an accommodation, either. As a colleague, this isn’t even your place to arrange beyond doing your best not to be a jerk to Jane by terrorizing her with a dog deliberately, though it is compassionate of you to worry about it. Jane’s boss is responsible for this, and Jane’s boss needs to be engaged in this immediately. A bottom-up approach will not work in the long term, and may do her more harm than good (see – concerns that Jane may be blamed by peers for loss of a perk).

    It’s possible she doesn’t want an accommodation (though unlikely, given the reactions you describe, but total avoidance of triggers isn’t always the way people choose to address/cope with a phobia). It’s possible she has an accommodation in mind that might work for her that is far less difficult/involved than what you’ve been leaning toward. It’s possible that she is already having talks about this with her boss that you are not privy to.

  48. bunniferous*

    I am a dinosaur who still cannot understand why dogs are indoor pets to start with. Not afraid of them , I have worked in dog friendly jobs before, I dealt with it, but when you are talking about an animal that could poop, pee, throw up or bite someone, plus they stink….tell me again why our culture has no problem with this? Definitely Team Jane on this one.

    1. Clisby*

      Same here. However, that’s probably because I grew up in a rural area where dogs (and cats, for that matter) just stayed outside. I can think of a handful of times my parents allowed a pet inside the house, and it was always for some sort of sickness/recovery from surgery – and the pet was shut in a bathroom.

    2. Earthwalker*

      Different dog owners have different ideas on whether their dog is clean and quiet. We’ve had neighbors whose dogs bark 24×7 and whose yards stink enough to drive the neighbors indoors, and they honestly don’t see any problem. So it seems like holding the line on “well behaved clean dogs may come to work” would be a bigger can of worms than policing dress code or workplace potty habits. What HR person would want to deal with that, never mind the more serious issues of coworkers’ allergies and dog fears?

    3. Farm Girl*

      Another dinosaur here. People live inside, dogs live outside — that was the rule when I grew up on the farm.

      My brother had an adorable little foofy dog that made me soften this position. Adorable foofy well-trained dog in the home, okay if it’s your home and you want it.

      But taking a dog to WORK? What madness is this?

    4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      Maybe because we are realizing dogs are sentient creatures who are strong pack animals and like to be with their pack. I could ask the same why people allow children in certain rooms of the house, etc. I personally wonder why people keep dogs outside unless that dog has a ojb outside (flock guardian). Cats and dogs need attention and are social.

  49. Lime Lehmer*

    Phobias are irrational, involuntary, and inappropriate fears of (or responses to) ordinary situations or things. The fear is persistent and out of proportion to the actual danger the object or situation poses. People who have phobias can experience panic attacks when confronted with the situation or object about which they feel phobic. A phobia may considered a disability under the ADA and an employer may need to provide accommodations.

    However, whether the requested accommodation is reasonable depends on whether granting the request would constitute an undue hardship for the employer.

    Undue hardship is imposed if the accommodation would come with “significant difficulty or expense” for the employer. This determination requires an assessment of the resources and circumstances of the employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing the accommodation. Larger employers will generally be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer.

    So there are 2 considerations under the ADA.
    1. Is Jane’s Phobia considered a disability?
    Probably and she could provide documentation from a physician
    And if the poor woman has to leave the floor, it is certainly effecting her ability to perform her job functions.

    2. Is the accommodation unduly expensive?
    Banning animals or restricting them to specific times is not expensive, (though doing so in a shared space is challenging). Relocating offices probably qualifies as unduly expensive.

    Jane’s manager is compassionate, and Jane is trying hard to find her own accommodations.

    Kudos to them both!

    1. My boss is an idiot*

      Even if it isn’t an actual disability, workers’ discomfort with dogs should be considered more highly than workers wanting cute dogs around the office (not counting the people who rely on service animals). I say this someone who generally likes dogs and animals. People’s love for their pets shouldn’t get in the way of general consideration for other people.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed. In general, “this is an optional thing that makes my working life easier” is a much lower priority than “this makes my coworker unable to work effectively.”

  50. Vermonter*

    “But people shouldn’t have to disqualify themselves from jobs because of disabilities that have nothing to do with their ability to perform the work.”

    Thank you.

    I’m disabled (not in a way that has anything to do with dogs (or scents, food, etc that might inconvenience my coworkers)) and I needed to see this today.

  51. Chickena*

    (accidentally posted this as a reply above, but intended it as a standalone comment)

    I wonder if Jane would be comfortable on the same floor as a dog if there was a designated dog-free area; perhaps the issue with being on the same floor as the dog was because she was worried it could appear and run over at any time. Since OP mentioned that their company has reserved space, half of it could be dog free 100% of the time.

    Someone would definitely need to talk to Jane and see if that would work for her – it’s totally possible that it wouldn’t help at all. But if it did help, it might be a good solution that doesn’t require her to plan her days around days where dogs will be present, yet still allows people to bring their dogs whenever they want.

    Also, I hope the building has a policy that dogs in public spaces have to be leashed. Some dogs are perfectly behaved all the time, but most aren’t. I love dogs and would be thrilled to work in a dog friendly office, but I’d still prefer that dogs who are not behind a closed door be on a leash. I don’t want a dog to jump on me as I’m walking down the hallway or getting a cup of coffee.

    1. Clisby*

      Any dog that would jump on you should be permanently banned from the dog-friendly office.

  52. Notwithstanding the Foregoing*

    I am allergic to dogs and also afraid of them (although I am not afraid of well-trained service dogs). If my workplace became dog-friendly, I would insist on working remotely and would immediately begin looking for a new job. I know bringing dogs to work is a perk for some, but many people are allergic or just not fond of dogs and would likely leave the company if they had other options. I also can’t imagine getting any work done with dogs running all over the place. While I am sure there are responsible pet owners who have trained their dogs, my experience is that some (many) do not and often encourage their dogs to go up to or interact with people who have expressed that they do not wish to be near the dog. Dogs in the office would a deal-breaker for me.

    In this case, it seems the office is prioritizing their pets over the well-being of their coworker. If Jane hasn’t already started looking for a new job, my guess is that she will soon. I certainly wouldn’t stay someplace where I have to check a schedule to ensure that no one is bringing fido into the office before I can go into the office and do my job.

  53. My boss is an idiot*

    Ugh…dog owners who feel like the world has to revolve around their pet – and refuse to understand that people have legitimate reasons to fear dogs – annoy me*.

    *Not counting people who rely on service dogs

  54. Daphne Moon*

    I love dogs and work in a dog friendly building. This policy only came into effect this year and Wish it hadn’t. Dogs are dogs: they sometimes have accidents, they bark, they whine when their owner steps away, they jump up sometimes. It is a problem because we have plenty of people in the coworkers who are allergic but also didn’t grow up with dogs. They’re not comfortable having them in the space.

  55. Wonder Aloud*

    Curious…why is this a different issue than, other aspects of culture? You always talk about making sure the workplace you apply to is a good “fit”, why isnt this just another aspect of “fit”. I appreciate that ‘Jane’ is afraid of dogs….why wasnt she responsible for verifying the culture of the office was a good fit for her before taking the job? I realize (unless the place of business is, say, a dog groomer) that dogs are not a fundamental part of the “workplace”, like using IM vs written memos, but it is a fundamental part of *this* workplace.

    1. Batgirl*

      Because people can get by in any culture while they job hunt. You can’t ignore a disability or condition!

    2. Washi*

      It’s illegal for the reason someone is not a “cultural fit” to be that they have a disability. Like you can’t tell wheelchair users to just not apply to jobs at places with only stairs. And I think a good workplace ought to be putting a lot of thought into the culture they create and not excluding people for reasons that have very little to do with the fundamentals of the work.

    3. Pizza Boi*

      What if the “culture for” was that, as a business, they all valued physical fitness? They were, say, accountants, so nothing about their jobs inherently required physical fitness. But many of the people of the team were runners, and a lot of the employees bonded over their marathon hoodies, etc.

      As a guy who hates running, I might feel uncomfortable with that culture but I could still do my accountant job and just, not fit in with everyone else.

      If they valued physical fitness, and relocated to the 5th floor of a building with no elevator “because we all run so we don’t need an elevator,” “little extra exercise never hurt anyone,” etc. I would be annoyed. And if they hadn’t realized that one of our employees had a chronic pain problem that reduced their mobility, it would have been a huge mistake to move to a building that effectively bars an existing employee from doing their work.

      Whose problem is it to solve this incompatibility? The ADA would likely say it is the employer’s responsibility.

    4. My boss is an idiot*

      In addition to what other commenters said, “culture fit” should refer to things like “can work comfortably in a fast-paced environment, believes in the org’s mission (civic-mindedness or whatever), is analytical/people-oriented/etc.) *It should still have to do with the actual work the company does*, not random hobbies, beverage preferences, or pet preferences. I think the issue with many work cultures is that some companies don’t make this distinction. People should get along with the people they work with, but they don’t have to be like friends or roommates and have everything in common.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Not necessarily. If you like casual dressing and the office culture is power business suits, you may not be the right cultural fit even if you can do the job and clothing may have not one thing to do with it. Same with a job culture that values social togetherness outside of work and expects their employees to agree. May have nothing to do with the job but that’s the culture.

        1. Observer*

          True, but (assuming the place pays a reasonable salary), there is generally no reason that someone CANNOT dress according to the culture of that office. If the dress code presents a problem for reasons that actually prevent someone from complying or present a significant problem around a disability, though, it would be stupid to exclude that person because of “culture fit.” And, in the US, it would be illegal. I think that’s a good thing.

    5. Rectilinear Propagation*

      It wasn’t a part of their workplace before they moved. Jane isn’t a new employee, it’s the dog-friendly co-working space that’s new in this situation.

    6. Clisby*

      In this particular case, Jane already worked for the company before they moved to the dog-friendly place. Dog-friendly because of the building owner’s policy, not the company’s policy. It was idiotic of the company not to realize this could be a problem, especially since they’re sharing the space.

  56. Longtime Lurker*

    Dogs in the office are deal-breakers for me. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of joining a dog-friendly small office as the first job out of college when really it was an exercise in “The new hire can be responsible for watching the boss’s 3 (2 big mutts and an insane Jack Russell Terrier) dogs while trying to get her work done!” This meant I spent half the day letting them in and out of the back yard instead of doing my work. (The office was a converted house.) I’m not allergic to dogs, but I am really allergic to bad dog owners and the whole distraction of having animals around while I’m trying to work.

  57. Beth*

    Just within the last few weeks, there was a discussion in one of the free-for-all threads: someone asked for honest feedback on whether people thought bringing dogs to work (in dog-irrelevant offices) was a good idea. I recall that she voiced the belief that most people were pro-dog, but wondered how small the no-dog minority was.

    In that thread, from what I could say, no-dog outnumbered pro-dog by at least 8 to 1!! This included a LOT of people who owned and loved dogs but had solid reasons for thinking dogs didn’t belong in the office, as well as people who loved dogs but did not own them, people who were allergic or phobic to dogs, people who preferred cats, and people who just preferred not to have pets in the workplace.

    I’m now wondering how many dog-friendly offices are basically driven by a few people assuming it’s a good idea, and steamrolling everyone else.

    1. jf*

      Dog people aren’t generally known for their overwhelming empathy and boundless social awareness.

      1. Observer*

        That’s an awful thing to say. And it paints with a ridiculously broad brush.

        You don’t have to like dogs – you can hate them for all I care. But that comment says more about you than about “dog people” or people’s empathy or social awareness.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I love my dogs beyond reason, but even I would have a hard time working with both of them in my office. One insists on sitting on my lap whenever I’ve sitting down, and if she gets bored will literally grab my hands and pull them off of my keyboard.

      The other one will sit next to me and emit a nonstop whine until I give her treats, a ball, or give up and get into bed with my laptop because she wants to be asleep in bed, but if I’m home I also have to be in the same room with her or LONELINESS.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      I am a huge dog lover and I don’t know how I feel about it. I like the idea of it because I love dogs and I love being around dogs, but I’ve never really worked in a pet friendly office so I’m not sure how it would work. I think it would be one of those things that would work really well if every single person had a really well trained, non-reactive dog but you can’t always get that from every one and some dogs have more needs than others and I could see it going downhill. And even if I did work in an office that allowed this, I think there would need to be some rules such as there need to be dog free zones and your dog needs to be contained. I don’t ever see this working in an open office space.

      I think you can be pet-friendly without saying Yes bring your dog in every single day. I think maybe allowing it on certain days of the week or allowing flex-time or maybe negotiating a group discount rate at a doggie daycare might be other options too. I don’t know – this would be something I feel like I would love but I’d like to see it in action.

  58. L.S. Cooper*

    It sounds to me like Jane got this job *before* the dog perks turned up, and she has been trying to handle it herself. She isn’t trying to take dogs from anyone; she was brought to tears, and then removed herself from the situation. It sounds like she is an eminently reasonable person who has already gone to rather extreme lengths to minimize her own phobia and the impact it has on coworkers. She would, frankly, be completely justified in being much louder about her needs, but instead, she opted to quietly remove herself from the situation.
    I’d ask her first, but it seems pretty simple to me to instate a no-dog policy on the floor that the Friday Drinks happen on. It seems from the letter that she was content to work up there, and excluding dogs from events that are food and drink focused seems reasonable– you don’t even have to bring up Jane’s phobia, just address the potential santitation and health issues. That way, Jane and other people who aren’t as into dogs have a floor that’s safe, and none of them will be excluded from the informal socializing and networking that happens on Fridays.

    1. Farm Girl*

      Ooohhhh, I like this. It combines the dog-free safe space with the health regulations hygiene bit, in a way that doesn’t single out Jane or the other employees who dislike the doggie atmosphere.

    2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      BUt they can’t==the other companies have dogs as well.

      1. Farm Girl*

        In this case, they = the people managing the whole building. Jane’s employers could at least suggest it.

      2. L.S. Cooper*

        The dog free floor has clearly already happened, at least informally. And I imagine the other companies have people who aren’t fond of dogs as well.

  59. Rectilinear Propagation*

    The pushback on this topic is often, “Well, people who don’t want to be around dogs shouldn’t take a job in a dog-friendly office.”

    I agree with all of Alison’s arguments against this.

    Additionally, it doesn’t even apply in this specific case: The employee with the fear of dogs didn’t take a job in a dog-friendly office. She took a job in a regular office that allowed some remote work and they moved into a space that was dog friendly. You can’t ensure your office doesn’t ever move. The best you could do is point out an issue with a planned move if they allow that kind of feedback before making a decision.

    One thing I don’t understand is why these businesses don’t do the same thing other businesses do to help their employees with kids and have an onsite daycare. The dog owners would still get to visit their dog during breaks and, if you do the layout of the building right, anyone who wants/needs to avoid dogs can do so.

    1. Anon re company policy*

      Very few companies do on-site daycare. One reason is the cost of the office space in an urban setting.

      1. Anon Anon Anon*

        Yes, and imagine all the drama that could come with it. For example, two kids aren’t getting along at daycare and their parents are working together. I’m sure it would go the opposite way too – helping co-workers to bond – but it could also add a bunch of weird tensions to the usual office dynamics.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Or maybe if they offer childcare perks, offer a stipend for dog walking / doggie daycare services.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        No. Stop. Child care and pet care are not the same. Child care being lumped in with “perks” is problematic in the first place, but making it an equivalent to having a pet is offensive.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Why? They’re choices. And you may not like it but science is showing people are closer often to their pets than human family members and the grief loss is the same for many. The human-companion animal bond is very strong. (Science also is showing having pets has great health benefits).

          1. Observer*

            And, having children is necessary for civilization to continue, while having dogs as pets is NOT.

          2. cmcinnyc*

            I’m not talking about your feelings. I’m talking about legal responsibilities. But as for feelings, you may be closer to your dog than some of your family members. But if you’re closer to your dog than you are to your child, that’s the reddest flag yet.

  60. Anon re company policy*

    I don’t think the company necessarily did anything wrong by moving into this space. Suppose this particular space saves the company several thousand per month as opposed to the closest non-dog option, plus allows people nicer facilities. I’m not sure it’s a reasonable accommodation to expect the company to choose a more expensive, otherwise inferior option. Again, I am not saying this from a personal love of dogs in the workplace, but I can personally see, as I posted above, how much allowing dogs in the workplace does benefit both my company and its workers, and allows the company to extract a lot more value from these workers too.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The OP said in comments above that the move was pushed by higher-up who particularly wanted the dog perk, and wasn’t shopped out to employees beforehand.

  61. Introvert girl*

    What is very very important as an employer, is that you don’t promise people they can bring their dog along to work and than take this away once the start because Someone has an issue with dogs. You have to check this in advance. You see, dog care is expensive and being able to bring your dog to work has a huge impact on someone’s budget. It’s like promising as an employer you will provide free daycare for someone’s baby and after they sign the contract you make them pay for it anyway.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah, I don’t think the response should be “take the dogs away.” A lot of people would find this a huge perk and it might be the reason that they do take that job and honestly if I took a job because of a huge perk like that and then it was taken away, I’d be looking somewhere else. Especially because it can cause such a huge impact on people’s budget.
      I think from the sound of it there are different floors of this office. Maybe make one floor the “dog floor” and the other one it’s not allowed. Make it so people can transfer to one floor or another as needed. Or allow employees to work from home if allowable and have a meeting room that’s a no dog room. Or allow employee’s with dogs to work from home more days a week. Or something. But just taking that perk away is really crappy.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Well, not quite like, since having a baby in daycare is a legal requirement but most dogs can be left home alone.

    3. WellRed*

      These dog owners were managing somehow, though. It’ not like it’s a perk that was in place for a long time, it only exists due to the move.

  62. Utoh!*

    Let me work from home and you bring elephants to work for all I care…I think if there are perks for the dog owners, there should also be some for non-dog owners (or people who don’t like them, are allergic, etc.). We don’t have a WFH policy here because not every job is conducive to it, but I’m sure some other perk can be agreed upon to balance it all out.

  63. Ellen N.*

    I assume that the commenters who suggest that the company change to a no dogs at work policy/move to a new office that isn’t shared with other companies didn’t see that Jane’s phobia is so strong that she is fearful to the point of tears if she knows that there is a dog on the same floor.

    Every office I’ve worked in has bathrooms on each floor serving every firm on the floor. As this is common, the company would have to move to a building with a no dogs on the premises policy. Even with such a policy, people with service dogs and in some cases emotional support dogs would be permitted.

    It seems to me that the best solution in this case would be to permit Jane to work entirely from home.

    1. Koala dreams*

      It would depend on the exact nature of Jane’s phobia as well as the set up of the alternative office. It’s possible that Jane could work in an office with much fewer dogs or an office where she has access to a dog free toilet. The current landlord is marketing themself as dog-friendly and probably attract a lot of tenants as well as their customers and visitors who have reasons to bring dogs into the building. Another office floor might have tenants who are allergic to dogs and therefore already are doing their best to minimize the number of dogs on the floor. There is also the possibility to rent an office with a private toilet and maybe even a built-in kitchenette. Of course office set up differ a lot between cities and neighbourhoods. It might be impossible in the places where you have worked, but that doesn’t say anything about the situation for the OP’s employer.

      1. Koala dreams*

        PS. I meant to add, that if Jane lives on a dog free floor that solution might indeed be the most perfect one! However, in some cities it’s easier to come across dog free commercial spaces than dog free housing. So it would also depend on the location!

        1. Ellen N.*

          If the building is dog friendly there will be dogs in the parking structure, the lobby and the elevators.

          1. KHB*

            Of course it’s not possible for the company to protect Jane from all the dogs in the world. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make an effort to make her work space as dog-free as possible. I don’t understand this line of reasoning.

            1. L.S. Cooper*

              Don’t you know that if we can’t 100% solve a problem, we shouldn’t even try a little bit??? /s

  64. Javi 29*

    Maybe instead of designating a dog free zone, there’s a way to designate a dog zone on a separate floor than the one Jane’ works on. Then anyone on Janes floor who wants to bring their dog to work can work in a separate area rather than requiring Jane to work in a separate area. I would also speak with the building management to see if Jane’s floor, including common areas, can be dog free. I also wonder if there’s a separate entrance to the building that Jane could use so she wouldn’t encounter dogs entering her office building. I love love love dogs and would never be able to live without them, but in the meantime, I think your company should seriously consider finding another office building that doesn’t allow dogs. Just because I love my dogs, doesn’t mean anyone else does, and I don’t think anyone should be required to be around someone’s dog in the workplace, outside of a service dog.

  65. Retired Accountant*

    I think that the way the question was framed, with Jane being terrified by a dog that she can’t see, is not in her physical presence, but on the same floor raises a lot of questions/rebuttals to the “just move” proposal. A company of the apparent size of the OP’s is likely going to require office space with some common area, even if only entryways and hallways. The company’s ability to make such spaces dog-free may be limited. If the company moves to a space on half a floor of an office building, and the other tenant becomes dog friendly, is it reasonable to expect the OP’s company to pick up and move again because dogs will be entering through the same entrance as the phobic employee? Where does it end?

  66. Beth*

    Honestly, OP? Start making plans to move out of the coworking space. It sounds like you’ve found a short-term solution for Jane’s situation, but this is going to come up again–maybe not in the exact details, but someone will have an allergy, someone will have a phobia, someone will find animals very distracting, etc. Maybe it’ll even be a client next time and you won’t even know in advance. If you move to a non-pet-friendly place when your lease here is up, you’ll preemptively dodge all this nonsense, which I think will make your collective lives much easier. (And I say that as an animal lover who’d love hanging out with dogs all day! Dogs are great, dogs in the workplace are too complicated and fraught to make sense unless your business is actually dog-centric.)

  67. Koala dreams*

    I’m not sure that the employeer can make a floor dog-free, unless they rent the whole floor. In many coworking spaces companies can rent space counted in number of offices or even desks, and there isn’t the option to rent the whole floor because all floors have common areas. It’s possible that the landlord and the other tenants would be willing to come to some agreement, but they could also say no.

    That being said, I’m disagree with the commenters saying that the cost for moving would be prohibitive. Some coworking spaces have quite short leases, so it might possible to rent one less office/desk in the dog friendly coworking building, and then rent one office/one desk in another coworking building (or office building) that doesn’t allow dogs (or only allows service dogs). The monetary loss could be quite low. However, there are more “invisible” work to make it truly equal for Jane, such as making sure the social events alternate between the dog friendly place and dog free places, that Jane’s manager gives her an equal amount of feedback compared to other employees, setting up tele-conference meetings that doesn’t disadvantage Jane and so on.

  68. Ellie*

    I just feel so bad for people who are afraid of or allergic to companion animals. They miss out on one of the greatest perks of being a human: being with cats and dogs.

    1. uh*

      I love dogs but highly allergic and I would not be able to work in a place that had them (even with meds). Yes, I had allergy shots for years for this too as I said I love dogs! But this seems like a silly thing to even worry about. OF COURSE your employees are more important than dogs!

  69. Anon Anon Anon*

    I love my dog. We’re inseparable. But I wouldn’t want to bring him with me to work every day. It seems like a huge can of worms, to be honest. What if, for example, someone stepped on his tail and then he snapped at them, broke the skin, and they took legal action? Something like that seems more likely in a workplace where people have to be there and aren’t exactly consenting to being around my dog. It’s different with friends. They’re opting in. They can ask us to leave or ask me not to bring him. We can have conversations about his personality and how to get along with him. And he’s an exceptionally friendly dog. But they are animals. They can’t talk, they have instincts, and they react to things differently than people do.

    I actually have taken him with me to some work-ish stuff (creative pursuit where I don’t break even but I take it seriously like a job and do get paid). Most of the time, everyone enjoys having him around, but I always make it optional, and there have been some not so great moments (someone gave him a small amount of chocolate, while under the influence, saying that giving dogs chocolate is like giving people alcohol, and he got sick). Weird stuff happens when you haphazardly combine dogs and people.

    So I’m not a fan of dog-friendly offices unless they’re well planned so the dogs and people are safe and everyone can work in peace. I can see it working in a place where people have private offices with doors that close, or a really small office where people communicate well. But I think it should be the exception to the rule.

    My point is that pushing back on the dog-friendly status of the co-working space might be for the greater good in the long run. There are probably other people (and dogs?) for whom it isn’t ideal but who don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

    And there are ways to compromise! You can be a dog-friendly company without having dogs in the office every day! Let people bring their dogs one day a week, say Fridays, and give everyone the option of working from home that day too. Offer discounts on dog walkers, sitters and trainers as a perk. Have dog-centric off-sites that are completely optional. Like going to a dog-friendly restaurant, for example.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I want to clone your brain and implant in all the Dog People who think that if people don’t want to be around dogs, or a particular dog, or dogs doing particular things like being off-leash, that it’s the *people* that need to vacate the space. I was verbally attacked by a Dog Person on my walk to work because her dog approached me (off-leash) and I told her to control her dog. Most normal people apologize that their off-leash dog has run up to a stranger, but Dog Person took the opportunity to inform me that the solution was for me “not to walk there.” Really.

  70. Alf*

    Sorry but work places are for working not running a doggy daycare (accredited service dogs excepted). If you have a pet and can’t afford to have it cared for whilst at work because you don’t want to leave it at home alone, then don’t have a pet. America seems to have lost the plot when it comes to what constitutes a service animal.

    1. Anon re company policy*

      The companies I know that are doing this do it because it allows them to extract more hours and value out of their employees than would otherwise be possible.

  71. BK*

    IMHO, Jane is not the one with the problem. The problem is these entitled dog nutters who act like the world is going to stop spinning if their dog isn’t attached to their side 24/7. Leave the dog at home and go do your job. It will be there waiting when you get home.

  72. lemonade*

    I hate to say it but I think if you ban dogs from an otherwise dog-friendly co-working space, all your employees are going to know it’s because of Jane, even if she isn’t directly cited as the reason. Regardless of all the dissenting voices on here who either dislike dogs, have allergies/phobias or simply don’t think a dog belongs in the office, the fact remains that bringing your dog to work is a major perk for a lot of people. OP, a number of commenters have warned that this dog-friendly policy could wind up driving away employees, but I’m fairly certain there would be a lineup around the block to replace them.

    Also, this dog-friendly office was specifically selected by a higher up who wanted the perk. How do you think that’s going to go down if you try to rescind it, on account of one (presumably less senior) employee with a phobia? I’d be willing to wager the dog-loving executive would do everything in her power to make sure Jane is driven out of the company asap. Jane’s colleagues will also resent her and she’ll have an entirely new set of reasons to avoid the office.

  73. PJ*

    Let’s say you had someone with a dog phobia and someone with a service dog in the same workplace. If I were the person with the phobia, I think I’d seek professional help. A phobia is something that can be successfully treated so maybe that is what the focus should be on.

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