my VP of HR says my service dog is too small

A reader writes:

I work for a small-ish company (80) people. I have epilepsy and I have a seizure alert dog. She can detect when I am about to have a seizure, which helps me get somewhere safe (she’s alerted when I’m on the stairs so I know to sit down immediately, or if I’m walking along a busy road I can move off to the side). She’s very good at what she does — usually I get a 2 or 3 minute warning and can ask for help or preemptively call someone like my husband. She’ll also find a person and direct them to my medical alert bracelet if I’m unable to tell someone what is happening ahead of time.

Here’s the “problem” — she’s a smaller dog. She’s a 20-pound mutt. Since she doesn’t provide mobility assistance of any kind, she also doesn’t wear a full harness like a seeing eye dog would. She walks on a standard collar and leash though she does have a fabric vest that says SERVICE DOG in large letters so if someone does see her when she’s looking for assistance, it’s pretty obvious that they should follow her.

Recently we hired a new VP of HR. This person says they do not believe that my dog is a real medical dog and not just an emotional support animal or a pet I want to bring to work. They say she is too small and she doesn’t wear real medical equipment. Alison — I paid literal tens of thousands of dollars for this dog and her training. She has saved my life with her alerts on more than one occasion. She’s also given me back freedom I didn’t have before because I was unable to go anywhere alone.

The VP of HR has no complaints about her behavior — she walks calmly beside me or rests under my desk during the day. She doesn’t bark and the only time I take her out for a bathroom break is when I’m on lunch. Nobody in the office has said anything that I know of.

This person simply says they’ve never heard of a dog that does this type of work and they’ve never seen a small service dog, so therefore I must be lying. I have provided paperwork from the training organization and my medical team, and they say you can print papers like that off the internet. I went to the CEO (the VP of HR’s boss) because if I don’t have my dog I can’t go to work and they said this was out of their area of expertise but couldn’t I “just get a bigger dog,” I guess so it’s obvious they are a working dog? I’m not really sure what to do from here. Other than this particular incident, I love my job and I’d like to keep working here.

I’ve been stewing about this all weekend, and I despise your HR person with a fiery heat.

I’m going to guess that since you’re at a small-ish company, your HR person … might not be highly trained in HR? That’s not uncommon at small companies and it’s the only explanation I have of why they’re unaware of how the Americans with Disabilities Act works, and why they don’t know that they can’t just decide that your medical accommodation isn’t real or that your medical alert dog isn’t big enough.

If they’d be fine with a bigger dog, they’re acknowledging that there’s no reasonable work cause to deny you the ability to have your dog there. They just don’t believe you and won’t accept your evidence because … ignorance, I guess? But the law doesn’t let them do that. You have a medically necessary accommodation and the documentation that accompanies it.

It sounds like your HR person might have a particular agenda re: emotional support animals (even though your dog isn’t one) and she’s taking it out on you. And/or she’s profoundly deficient in critical thinking.

In any case, since you’ve already escalated to your CEO and gotten nowhere, I’d do three things:

1. Contact an employment lawyer right away. (Here’s a directory of employment lawyers who represent employees, by state.) They can either contact your employer on your behalf and explain your company’s legal obligations or they can advise you from behind the scenes, depending on what the two of you decide is the best approach. (Note that this doesn’t need to be adversarial if you don’t want it to be; if you let your lawyer know that you want to remain on good terms if at all possible, they can frame the approach accordingly.)

2. Contact the training organization that provided your dog, tell them what’s going on, and see if they can help. It’s possible that receiving a certified letter from them attesting to your dog’s medical necessity would get through to your loon of an HR person.

3. If your boss is a reasonable person and you think would be on your side, let her know what’s going on and how alarmed you are to be accused of forging medical paperwork. See if they’re willing to intervene on your behalf.

Do all of these, but if you’re only doing one, do the lawyer. You need someone advocating for you legally and ensuring that your rights are protected.

{ 918 comments… read them below }

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I just can’t think straight about this.
      Apparrently, “anyone can say they are an HR professional,” too.
      Please have the lawyer send a letter and write back about the meeting where the HR loon said, “anyone can print legal office letterhead from the internet.”
      And then after a meeting with your “lawyer” because “anyone can wear a suit and carry a briefcase.”
      And while you are doing this, stop talking to this person. I mean, stop bothering to justify your dog and right to work. If HR loon stops you in the hall, you need to get back to work, but she is free to schedule a meeting. If HR loon schedules a meeting, just let her talk herself out.
      “I understand your feelings. Is there anything else?”

      1. dogmom*

        Hey, if Theranos can dummy up fake Pfizer documents that no one questioned for years apparently, anyone can do it! /s

        Seriously, LW, this is infuriating. Please get that lawyer and let us know how it goes!

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Now I’m wondering how much further this logic goes.

        “Anyone can wear a black robe and call themselves a judge.”
        “Anyone can wear a police uniform and say we’re under arrest for contempt of court.”
        “Anyone can put up a building with bars on the windows and call it a jail.”

      3. Meep*

        We are a small company where the VP of Sales & Marketing calls herself “HR”. She is definitely the least professional out of anyone here despite being 30+ years older than everyone.

        I pointed out I disliked that she made a comment about my fever being due to ovulation last week. This lady verbatim in an email exchange between us have the nerve to type this:
        “My comment to you about your fever in relation to ovulation was a comment that is a medical fact. I must have been trying to offer a possible cause other than you having Covid. ”

        Ma’am.
        1. A 99.6-degree fever is NOT a sign of ovulation.
        2. You are not a doctor. You should not be diagnosing me.
        3. Would you honestly say this to ANY of my male coworkers? Or is sexism at play here?
        4. I had already told you when this occurred that I had not have COVID.

        It was safe to say I went over her head and filed a formal complaint about sexual harassment to the CEO. We will see if he does anything, because apparently women cannot be sexist against other women. -insert eye roll-

          1. Meep*

            Alas, this is not even the most inappropriate thing she has done. She has also insisted that a stomach bug = I am pregnant, being upset with her saying inappropriate things equates to being hormonal and on my period, and while I was in tears due to not one but four impacted wisdom teeth asked if I could push back my surgery to a time more “convenient” for her (which was months later after a conference that wasn’t for a month and a half).

            And this doesn’t even include her bullying me into admitting coworkers that could be her son are “hot” and all the bigoted comments I have heard about anyone who isn’t a “good-looking” white Catholic male. I could honestly write a book about her.

      4. Amaranth*

        Wouldn’t LW have included paperwork from their doctor for the accommodation? So are they accusing them of ‘making up’ epilepsy? I’m completely baffled why the VP would think LW needs a support animal and so…brings a pet?

        1. banoffee pie*

          So HR person is calling OP a liar to their face. Nice. And don’t seem to realise that they’re making themselves look uninformed and petty. I thought people knew epilepsy service dogs were there to warn about seizures, not to be a certain size (?!) or wear a harness (!?)

          HR person is like ‘look, I’ve heard of stuff! I know assistance dogs are always labradors and wear a big harness!’ Probably all pleased with themselves that LW isn’t ‘getting one over on them’. FFS

          1. Wenike*

            I’m sitting here wondering what HR loon would think if they knew that some dogs are essentially service dogs to cheetahs at zoos and some of those aren’t necessarily labs or goldens. Or the fact that service dogs are for more than just being a guide dog? I’ve seen there’s one person who has one to alert them for their blood sugar, so its again one that wouldn’t wear a bunch of medical equipment.

            1. Princesss Sparklepony*

              Often those zoo service dogs are dachshunds. Don’t know why, maybe a big personality in a little dog. But also Golden Retrievers – sunny personality and can get along with anyone.

          2. Princesss Sparklepony*

            I know, it’s weird that they think the size of the dog matters. I thought epilepsy and other types of seizure dogs were pretty standard. Kind of makes me want her to get another seizure dog – this time a St. Bernard or a Great Dane. Just for fun – one for travel and one for work.

            But if they want her to get another dog that fits their requirements – I don’t see them ponying up to pay for the training and for the dog itself. Which I would definitely request since they are requiring me to change dogs. And a paycheck supplement for the extra food such a dog would need. Maybe pay for a bigger car to transport said large dog.

            This HR person should expect some major legal trouble for her ignorance of what service dogs do. Does she not know how to ask Mr. Googly?

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I know someone in Oregon (where service animals aren’t restricted to dogs) who has a seizure cat. I think she might have a reason a dog won’t work for her, but anyway she had noticed all her cats knew Something Is Wrong right before she had a seizure. So she got a Siamese kitten and trained him to pat her face when he could tell she was about to seize (instead of just having a panic attack like her other cats do) AND to wear a leash + harness and ride in a backpack.

              Unfortunately, the bus drivers in Portland are often happier to let people on the bus with an untrained, lunging large dog they claim is a service dog than they are to let her keep her extremely chill cat in a backpack.

              1. Anonymous Today*

                That is so sweet. Just the thought of an adorable kitty gently patting their face made me glad for this person.

        1. Medusa*

          Honestly this letter mad eme think “should I do a third career transition to HR? I will be far more understanding of inclusion issues than apparently already working HR professionals”

          1. AES*

            I was at an Inclusion and Equity training led by our VP of HR last week and my mouth was literally hanging open half the time because he was so problematic. I messaged a friend who was also in the training and said “WHY AM I NOT I VP OF HR???” (NB I do not work in HR but I would most certainly have the good sense not to frame I&E trainings with bible quotes–and that was just the start of the problems!)

          2. Michelle ma belle*

            Fifteen years ago I started a benefits job in the large HR department of a well-known business publisher. I had previously worked a conservative religious organization which also is my faith. My manager told me that the HR head (an attorneywho was out recovering from surgery) was “different” so I would not be taken off-guard when I met him. The day he returned to work, he came into my office, plopped down in a chair while introducing himself, and blurted out if I knew where the clergy from my former employer were “hiding all the money” since the place was corrupt. I must have just stared at him with my mouth open and eventually mumbled something that I did not believe what he said to be true. I was stunned that the HR head would make such a statement.
            Shortly after that encounter, I went to my required EEOC training which made it clear that discrimnatory speech was not tolerated and should be reported to the HR head. So I was supposed to report the HR head to himself!
            I was miserable there. My manager wanted me to do some shady things that I believed would lead to legal action with my name on the paperwork. She often drank her lunch and was impossible to deal with afterward. There was so much more wrong there.

      1. Elenna*

        And “just get a bigger dog”???? I’m super curious how that CEO would react to LW putting in a request for tens of thousands of dollars of reimbursement to train a second, larger service dog… After all, apparently it’s a work requirement, so surely work should pay for it!

        1. Anybody 3*

          I think this is a reasonable strategy. “I am of course willing to accommodate Org’s request that I have a bigger dog. When do you think you can send a check for Bigger Dog’s training to Training Org?”

        2. Anonybonnie*

          Seriously! I know people who have saved and hoped for DECADES wanting one of these dogs, which makes it even more infuriating that someone would just say, “oh, go get a bigger one.”

          1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

            Agreed. The whole thing is infuriating, but that suggestion? Flames on the side of my face.

            1. NotJane*

              Yes! Flames! Flames… on the side of my face… heaving… breathless… breathing…

              I appreciate the comedic interlude, because I am so outraged by this letter, I was about to blow a gasket.

          2. SeluciaMD*

            But the thing that gets me is WHY IS BIGGER BETTER? I would not be able to help myself. I would have to ask: “Can you explain to me how or why a bigger dog is more…appropriate as a service animal? What would a big dog do that this dog doesn’t? Do you know what my service dog does when I’m having an attack? How is my dog’s size relevant at all?” I seriously want this person to explain it with their outside voice using big people words. Because this is both insanely nonsensical and totally audacious!

            This is the moment that if gif’s were enabled in this comments section, I’d be breaking out Anger from “Inside Out.” I shall share a link for anyone who needs it because it really does perfectly capture this feeling of incandescent rage I have bubbling inside of me.

            https://tenor.com/view/cookies-inside-out-mad-angry-fire-gif-16392820

            OP, I am so sorry. This is frickin’ MESSED UP.

            1. Dr Sarah*

              I would have thought bigger would actually be worse from the office’s POV, since a bigger dog wouldn’t be able to fit easily under the desk and would take up more space. This is *so ridiculous.*

              I really hope we get an update involving the HR person being in a lot of hot water.

            2. PeanutButter*

              It was my understanding that smaller dogs were preferable for medical alert stuff because they were more likely to live a lot longer, and thus a person who had one would get more out of their tens of thousands of dollars.

              The Malicious Compliance side of me wants the OP to come in with a service miniature horse.

        3. Allornone*

          Not to mention, it takes a significant amount of time to train one of these dogs. Even with the money, the process can take years.

          1. banoffee pie*

            HR person seems to think it’s just a matter of going to the shop and ‘getting a new dog’. Also I’m sure LW has got attached to this dog now!

        4. LifeBeforeCorona*

          The temptation to go malicious compliance is strong here. I would borrow a Saint Bernard dog, bring it into the office and ask the VP if this is a big enough dog.

          1. KaciHall*

            My aunt had a Great Pyrenees that was taller than me on its hind legs (which it liked to stand with her people, front paws resting on their shoulders. ) That might work. She was definitely smart enough to be a service dog.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Dude, are you joking?

                Do you know how big those dogsare? A full grown male can stand as high as 3 ft at the shoulder and weigh up to 180 lbs. Bigger than a lot of wolves. There’s a reason they’re called a “giant” breed.

                Google Irish wolfhound and you’ll find a lot of pics just like that one. (I would post some links for comparison, but this would just go into moderation, and I’m sure Alison has more than enough to do.)

          2. Jay*

            I can see the scene now…….
            OP walks into the office leading a 1,500 pound Catbomination, wearing an orange vest, on a leash. “This is Mr. Fluffykins, my Service Liger. His bathroom schedule is whenever he wants, wherever he wants, on whatever he wants. His diet is anyone who annoys me. Any concerns with this arrangement can take it up with”….. (points to a maw large enough to fit two fully grown human heads)….. “the complaints department.”

          3. Tabby*

            Oh no! What you want is an Irish wolfhound, because dear lord they are behemoths! The one I met’s head was even with my chest (I’m 5’3 1/2″, for reference), and was about 6+ feet on his hind legs. It was like watching a bear wander the dog daycare.

            Imagine asking if one of those gigantinormous (what we use to describe our Dane and Wolfhound pups at work! :D) dogs was sufficiently LORGE ENOUGH.

          4. Princesss Sparklepony*

            My thought as exactly. If a SB wasn’t available a Great Dane or Cane Corso would do as well. Mastiff with a drool issue? ;)

            I want to second so many of the posts to this letter. I wish there was a like button. But so far, I like everyone’s post, so consider yourselves all liked.

              1. Tabby*

                Can confirm those monsters shed enormous amounts of fur. We literally sweep mounds of it on the daily when one of the Newfie clients comes to board. You can hear, “GODDAMMIT, RORY!” on a regular basis. He’s a darling, but oh my god we can make a big sweater or two out of his fur.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Right? OP’s dog can’t possibly be a service dog because those are special and important and yet it must be super easy for them to just get a new one? Apart from the thousands of dollars and hours of training, when a friend of my family’s was in the process of getting his service dog the waitlist was ridiculously long!

          OP, nobody at your workplace knows anything at all.

        6. curiousLemur*

          The LW is probably emotionally attached to the dog at this point. I would be. I wouldn’t bluff on this; they just might call it.

          1. Anonybonnie*

            Not just that, but the dog is now even more highly attuned to OP’s physiology and pre- and post-seizure needs than even another highly trained dog would be. This isn’t just a dog, or even just a seizure dog; this is the best possible medical assistance device for OP.

          2. Elenna*

            Oh, yeah, I absolutely don’t think OP should get another dog, even if the company does pay for it. It’s just amusing to imagine Idiot CEO being confronted with the bill.

              1. Princesss Sparklepony*

                Now that you mention that, maybe putting in for another dog with the company covering the costs wouldn’t be a bad idea… depending on how old the current dog is. Sad to say, dogs only live a short time in comparison to humans… this way when dog 1 is ready to retire a 2nd dog will be in the works. Planning ahead can save some time … hmmmm

                But it wouldn’t so much be a replacement dog as in taking current dog away. I’m not sure I’m explaining this correctly. I did forget how long the wait times are for a trained service dog and just trying to factor that into the LW’s plans.

        7. Salad Daisy*

          I think an English Mastiff would be great. According to the Guiness Book of Records – a dog called Zorba weighed in at 142.7 kg and stood 27 inches high in 1981. Is that big enough?

          And of course the company would need to provide money for the extra food, etc. that a bigger dog needs. And probably spring for a bigger vehicle for LW since a dog that big would not fit in a regular sized car.

              1. Alex the Alchemist*

                “No, my service dog isn’t just three smaller dogs in a trench coat, why do you ask?”

            1. Princesss Sparklepony*

              I so want to post a photo of the bath scrubby Halloween costume I made for one of my dogs. It did increase her width about 4 fold or more. Think lots of multicolored tulle bunched together on an old baleful looking min pin mix who normally looked like a blimp on stilts.

              I loved that little so and so. She was a biter though but she always gave warning. Weirdly, she loved little girls ages 6 to 14 or so. I could trust her implicitly with them. But not men or boys.

        8. Kobayashi*

          Not to mention, smaller dogs for seizure alert are usually more practical. They are MUCH easier to fit in tight spaces like airplanes, buses, etc. They eat less food (keeping monthly costs lower), and tend to live longer than larger dogs.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            First service dog I met was an Italian greyhound. They’re tiny, and that was the point. She could carry him despite being somewhat medically fragile. Neither seizure detection nor fire alarm alerts require a large animal!

        9. Atalanta0jess*

          RIGHT?! Also, I’m sure a bigger dog is actually less convenient and more disruptive….so….get a less convenient dog, because I fully admit that I have this weird bias and just refuse to accept yours? What the actual eff…..

        10. lex talionis*

          How about HR person gets a bigger brain and while she’s at it, for a nominal up charge, order the common sense option.

    2. Lea*

      That hr person read that one Article about emotional support llamas or something and is going off that. If they had said they’ve never seen a small animal they could at least be educated…

      Did the ceo really suggest op just get another animal? Because I think that was the time to mention the expense of the dog and ask if they wanted to pay for an appropriate sized dogs training because wow.

      1. Head-a-shaking*

        And the ongoing extra cost of care and feeding, as well as a larger residence perhaps, as many condos have animal size restrictions (well, a service dog would be exempted, it still). Finally, boarding costs for years because while it is easy to take a small dog everywhere, if travelling with family who are able to monitor indicators as well as the dog, boarding may be necessary if taking a large dog is not possible.

      2. NNN222*

        It’s so frustrating because I mostly just know surface level stuff about service animals but that includes knowing that the only things you are allowed to ask is if it’s a service animal and, if it is, what task does it perform. That’s it. LW is very clear about the tasks her dog performs. There is no way this VP of HR has much experience as an HR professional.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      I agree! What a pompous fool this HR person sounds like! If she isn’t aware of something, the other party must be making it up?! So she knows everything about everything on earth, including more about an individuals life and medical condition than they do?

      I hope a lawyer is able to help LW, and that HR person finds herself out of a field she is obviously not at all suited for.

      1. Koalafied*

        Right, even if she’s never heard of this type of service dog before, they’re not so uncommon that a 5 minute Google search couldn’t confirm that they are indeed a thing. The LW has done everything you would recommend that someone do and more – explain her situation, provide documentation, go over HR to the CEO – so it’s all the more maddening that this is the outcome even after her taking all those steps when realistically this all should have begun and ended with someone giving the new HR hire an FYI about a disability accommodation that has already been put in place for an existing employee.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m going with Alison’s “If you’re only doing one, do the lawyer.”

      All those letters re stuff that isn’t illegal… but fortunately this one is.

      1. Me (I think)*

        Yeah, and the other top seed is the manager who wrote in all huffy about her employee who was upset about not being paid for two months.

        1. Heffalump*

          This case is more egregious, and that’s saying something. Of course, years of reading AAM have taught me never to read a horror story and think, “No one will ever top this!”

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          Letter writers themselves are DQd from being Worst Boss of the Year, so as to not discourage people from writing in and asking for advice.

  1. LDN Layabout*

    I commend the letter writer for being to write calmly about this situation because reading it makes me want to scream very loudly about the HR person.

      1. Amaranth*

        I’d be curious if this HR person has any certification or is just filling the role because they wouldn’t hire a trained professional. I’d be really tempted to file a complaint — would that be with the EEOC or is there an official body for HR?

        1. The OTHER other*

          The VP of HR aid a huge jerk, but not enough has been said of the jerky and gutless CEO. He had the opportunity to clear up a huge problem and… didn’t. Really, “why don’t you just get a bigger dog” is his answer? He deserves a lawsuit.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            It also doesn’t even make any sense even if it were possible–the HR person seems to have decided that because OP’s dog is small they must be lying about their need for a service animal. So if OP just got a different dog… that’s not going to change the fact that the HR person has already come to this unreasonable conclusion that she’s made up her medical needs! The HR person hasn’t said “I don’t think your small dog is up to the task.” She’s said “I don’t believe you really need a dog at all.”

            So instead of suggesting OP get a bigger dog, the CEO should probably just get a better HR person.

        2. Recruited Recruiter*

          HR person here – If the person is certified (HRCI’s PHR/SPHR or SHRM-CP/SCP) you could potentially report them to the governing organization.

          1. BubbleTea*

            The possibility that someone could be certified by a professional HR organisation and be this ignorant of the law is horrifying. I know this is against US employment law and I’m not even in the US, never mind purporting to be HR in the US! So I am almost hoping there ISN’T anyone to report them to.

            1. A Wall*

              Oh this is so typical here, both I and my husband have had identical run-ins with heads of HR at every job we’ve ever had when trying to get our (extremely simple) accommodations. Company refuses, you press, they escalate to higher and higher levels of HR as you continue to press and they continue to tell you to kick rocks, rinse repeat until you’re at the top of the org and some clown who gets paid six figures to known employment law is openly threatening your job in writing if you don’t drop your FMLA request or something equally ridiculous.

              The thing is that most employees don’t realize what HR is doing is illegal, they assume that it coming from someone with that authority is doing the right thing. So they just get away with it every time.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      As someone with a disabled parent, this HR VP is infuriating. LW’s frustration mirrors my own when she or I am asked really stupid questions or uninformed assumptions flop out. You have all my sympathy, LW.

    2. Ellena*

      And at the CEO – what kind of ignorant dbag would say “just get a bigger dog, what’s the big hoopla?!”

      1. many bells down*

        And like… IF the VP was right and it was just a “pretend” service dog… how would getting a bigger dog suddenly make that not the case? She already doesn’t believe you need a service dog.

        1. BubbleTea*

          “I couldn’t get a bigger one, so I got three more small ones. The total mass is about equivalent to one labrador. I take it this is an acceptable solution.”

          1. Salymander*

            You just made me snort coffee all over myself, the sofa, the floor, the cat.

            I am ok with it, but the cat is not.

    3. Random Biter*

      Update! Update! Update!

      Also, the line to smack that HR person so hard even Google won’t be able to find her starts here ->

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same, and I can assure you that the tirade would include some fairly profane language.

      I am not a fan of dogs at work just for having dogs at work. I also loathe people who do buy fake paperwork so they can bring their poorly-trained housepet places they have no business being (and likely stressing out the animal in the process). But service animals have a job and are well-trained to do it! I cannot imagine telling a coworker they couldn’t bring their service animal to work or that they were “faking” a service dog. Where I live, it’s pretty easy to tell the service dogs from those that are strictly pets from how well-trained they are and that you can usually see them working – nothing at all to do with their size and everything to do with their fitness and training for the job. (On the metro, service dogs are typically sitting by their person or under their seat. Pets are sniffing everyone on the car while their owner reassures everyone that they are friendly.)

      Seriously, I want to throw something at both the HR person and the CEO. I spent enough time in law firms that I typically encourage non-lawyer resolution whenever possible, but get a lawyer and write these people a WTF letter ASAP. And sue them if they continue this crap.

      I need an update on this one. Preferably with the assholes getting their due a la the spicy lunch LW.

  2. Not really a Waitress*

    Removed — please don’t make comments re: women must be sleeping with someone to get their job! It’s quite damaging and men never get accused of it. – Alison

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      In smaller or newer companies, it’s not too uncommon to see an administrative/office/financial person take on HR. Like, “hey, you’re already doing Payroll, can you be HR too? It’s basically the same thing, right?!” That might look logical on paper to an inexperienced business owner, but as we can clearly see from LWs past and present… it doesn’t always work out so simply!

      I hate to see the default assumption be that someone got their job because of who they are sleeping with.

      1. AbsolutelyYesOfCourse*

        That happened to an admin role I had years ago and it was so awful. I am an extremely conscientious person and hated how unbelievably out of my depth I was taking on such a huge department, with no training or experience or expectations set. I forced my boss to hire a real HR person as soon as I possibly could, citing all the ways having me, someone who didn’t have the right background, could really cost the company money and personnel! We could get fined and sued if I missed things or messed up!

        That said, I was a hell of a lot better than THIS PERSON OMG.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          “That said, I was a hell of a lot better than THIS PERSON OMG.”

          … And you CLEARLY have the self-awareness to see and acknowledge that your background didn’t match the reality of running HR… LW’s HR VP could take a wise lesson from you.

          1. AbsolutelyYesOfCourse*

            Absolutely. But the fact that they have a VP At all suggests to me it’s not a 1-person department and it shouldn’t be failing OP this badly! If this person sucks, fine, but the fact that OP is getting no support elsewhere is especially concerning.

            1. BitingMyTongue*

              That’s not necessarily true. My last company had a Director of HR but he was a one man show, had no staff under him. The receptionist did minor clerical work for him.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Yeah, I don’t work in HR and I have heard about alert dogs. I didn’t know they had to be a certain size.

          If you were to tell your HR person to fuck off, I would not fault you. Don’t actually do this. But there is literally no reason to decide a dog is a service dog based solely on size. Then be dismissive of actually offering credentials.

          Gees, such a contrast to the “Go Get Your Dog” letter.

        3. English Rose*

          Similar for me, I started in Admin and was asked to take on an HR role as well. There were other more experienced HR people and I was still really awful at it for months while I learned. But at least I knew I was bad!
          I absolutely hate when people like this complete idiot give HR a bad name.

      2. CBB*

        I worked at a small company (25 employees), where the HR person was also the bookkeeper in charge of payroll and accounts payable. I don’t know what her HR training was, but she did a good job at all three rolls.

        1. Threeve*

          I’ve worked with plenty of inexperienced HR people actually tend to be the most cautious, and they almost always err on the side of CYA when it comes to potential legal issues. They’re the least likely to be nitpicky and vindictive like this. (My current HR manager is still convinced that he can’t legally ask people about their vaccination status.)

        2. You get a pen and you get a pen*

          As an accountant that has worked various roles in small to mid sized companies – this is so VERY common. I am generally always completing the job duties for what I was hired for and then either HR or IT. I have definitely learned quite a bit along the way but not enough to where I should always be the default HR person!!!!

        3. Elizabeth West*

          This was the case at a previous job. The HR/Accounting manager was my boss, and I replaced the receptionist, who became her assistant. With two people in the office, at least she had some help, and she did have SHRM training.

          Then Manager quit and her assistant took over. But she lacked that training and they never hired any help for her. I had to take on some of the grunt work back there so we were each doing two jobs. It was so stressful.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        Yeah, the assumption that someone “slept their way up the ladder” is gross. But also I’ve seen exactly what you’ve seen – even been there, done that and got the T-shirt: I was once in a very small (like 20 people) company and got to be “assistant HR” because I was an admin and had a sociology degree – “that deals with people, so…” It didn’t work out for other reasons. But my experience seems to be far from uncommon. Office manager or Accounts Payable person gets to wear the HR hat as well because why not?

        If my “assistant HR” job had lasted longer I would have been glad to take a HR certificate course just to get up to speed, because HR is not an “anyone can do this” job. Who knows if this HR person in the LW’s question is a legit trained HR person in over their head, or is not acting in good faith – or is a promoted admin because “HR is an easy job that any woman can do” in much the same way that preschool or kindergarten teaching is “babysitting – any woman can do it.”

        And that leads me to the fact that HR is a female-coded job, so the mentality that it’s an easy job that doesn’t require special training, just loving womanly instincts, is there.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I, too, have worked at a small company where the CFO was also the HR director. He was a man about my age (early 30s at the time). It never crossed my mind that he must’ve had to sleep with the owner to get that job. I bet the commenter who posted the (now-removed) default assumption wouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion either, because, you know, a man would never! But there’s always someone happy to throw that assumption out about a woman. Geez.

        (He was bad at being the HR director, did not seem to enjoy it, and probably had the job dumped into his lap like “we cannot afford to hire someone just for that, and you are already the CFO and isn’t it pretty much the same thing?” How bad exactly? When telling me about the company benefits at the end of my second interview, my hiring manager told me that the company did not offer dental, and I looked disappointed and said something to that effect. The CFO/CHRO responded with “Why does it matter to you? Do you have bad teeth?” The mind still boggles 20+ years later.)

      5. Again With Feeling*

        Yes, I think a lot of employers 1) want to save money, 2) don’t really understand the purpose of HR, and 3) equate it with general admin work. You’re the office manager, and we need someone to manage the insurance paperwork, so…you do it! They’re not thinking about the privacy and legal stuff that comes up.

  3. LizB*

    I think a corollary to step 2 could be to have your doctor reach out directly to the VP of HR, whether via phone call or certified letter that DEFINITELY was not printed off the internet.

    1. Heidi*

      I also think this might be situation where your physician could help out by writing a letter of medical necessity. It might not change the VP’s mind, but it would get documentation of your condition in the event that HR tries to stop you from bringing the dog to work.

      20-lbs sounds like a normal-sized dog, BTW.

      1. fposte*

        I agree that it wouldn’t hurt to get a doctor’s note into the mix, and it may be quicker and more conducive to subsequent relations than a lawyer. Not that I’m against a lawyer! Just that if she reaches out to her doctor she may have a note by tomorrow.

        I suspect that, dogwise, if the dog wasn’t a German shepherd or a Lab with a full guiding harness, they wouldn’t believe it.

        1. ThatGirl*

          which….literally the harness is there for mobility, for people who are vision impaired or have mobility issues. Which is (obviously) not the only kind of medical service dog there is. GRRR.

        2. Lilo*

          It sounds like OP already has provided a doctor’s note.

          My Dad’s a doctor and has had stuff like this happen and I know he called up the person in question (tends to be principals, as my Dad’s a pediatrician) and read them the riot act. If you have a supportive doctor they might be willing to put HR person on their place.

            1. Heidi*

              The OP said that there was paperwork from the medical team, but didn’t specify what that paperwork included. A stack of medical test results doesn’t really help – the HR person has no way of interpreting all that. I was recommending that she get a letter of medical necessity, which is 1) addressed to the employer by name, 2) lists the specific request (that she be allowed to bring her service animal to work), and 3) states that it is medically necessary in the opinion of the provider.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I doubt that OP just dumped a bunch of test results on HR. “Paperwork” to get Fair Housing accommodations where I live is a packet of forms for me AND my medical team to fill out. Because they have ONE person to approve requests for 100+ apartment buildings (and it’s affordable housing so higher than average representation of Disabled people) they want everything standardized so they don’t have to hunt for the different elements of the request and documentation.

          1. LizB*

            Yeah, my thought was more along the lines of reading them the riot act over the phone. I would imagine most doctors would be happy to do that in this case.

            1. LunaLena*

              I doubt it would work for this doofus of an HR person, though. After all, if anyone can print documents off the Internet, anyone can call and claim to be a doctor too.

        3. SleepyKitten*

          Yeah I think that’s what is meant by “too small” – presumably a malamute would be too large to be a real service dog. They just think only seeing eye dogs are real or only classic guide dog breeds can be trained for service.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Anyone with enough savvy would think for five seconds and realise that those breeds are ideal for guide dogs because they’re approximately waist height, which is only a consideration if you need to hold onto them to know where you can safely go. But this HR person clearly lacks savvy.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        I also wondered if a doctor’s note would help. OP shouldn’t have to go that route, but it might help get the HR person to back off, especially if the doctor is used to writing notes for ADA accommodation processes and sprinkles some of that language in.

      3. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Why would anybody motivated to make sure only dogs that belong in the office are there demand additional dog biomass? The person must believe that LW is faking her disability, which is additionally infuriating.

      4. Esmeralda*

        This should already have been addressed when OP got their ADA accommodation set up.

        People with disabilities should not have to share their medical information with every ignorant a** at work. They should not have to have their medical providers contacting every tom dick and harry.

        I understand why folks are suggesting this, but…just no. It’s a federal law. The employer must comply. Just because this idiot doesn’t know the law, or want to follow the law, and just because the CEO doesn’t care if their HR follows the law (!!!! that’s so WTF my head’s about to explode), the OP has to jump through extra, not legally required hoops.

        Call a lawyer to figure your next steps, OP. And I’m sorry your HR is so f’ed up and making your work life harder.

        I’m enraged on your behalf.

        1. fposte*

          I mean, it is a little bit more complicated that than, in that it’s a reasonable accommodation rather than a mandate, and it would be legal for employers who couldn’t reasonably accommodate a dog’s presence to say no.

          But this demonstrably isn’t the case here because *the dog has already been in the office.*

          1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

            well, and a /bigger/ dog does not change the issue of /service/ dog.

            The only “cure” has nothing to do with …. much of anything? like someone saying “you need steel toe boots on this job, so here’s a random pair that doesn’t fit”. …. that .. doesn’t help.

    2. Cold Fish*

      I kind of disagree with Step 2 in general. OP has all relevant paperwork and it’s already been provided. That VP doesn’t believe the paperwork is the issue and having OP reach out to either the training facility or a doctor is beyond acceptable. If VP told OP that they could just print documents from the internet well… they could just get a friend to call saying they are a doctor/from training facility.

      I think the lawyer is the only way to go. (And I would make crystal to CEO that their response to situation is just as reprehensible and responsible for lawyer as VP.)

      1. It's Growing!*

        I agree with the need for a lawyer as the VP of HR, and maybe the CEO, are not going to believe any paperwork presented. It’s kind of like talking to someone who believes the moon landing was faked, the earth is flat, and COVID is a hoax – there’s just nothing you can say to make them believers. It’s possible that legal consequences make make some inroads.

      2. Observer*

        kind of disagree with Step 2 in general. OP has all relevant paperwork and it’s already been provided. That VP doesn’t believe the paperwork is the issue and having OP reach out to either the training facility or a doctor is beyond acceptable.

        The question is not “what is right” but “what will get me the results I want”. Standing on principle here has no real upside.

        If VP told OP that they could just print documents from the internet well… they could just get a friend to call saying they are a doctor/from training facility.

        This is the part that worries me.

        1. fposte*

          Though there’s kind of an entertaining logical conclusion: “Anybody could pretend to serve us with a summons!”

      3. BluntBunny*

        My read was that they had documents from the training centre. I think what is potentially missing is a signed note to state OP has seizures due to epilepsy in addition to medication to reduce the frequency, a service did is used to help protect them when a seizures is about to happen.
        Also if your company has first aiders maybe worth speaking to them to make sure they aware what they will need to do and how to read the dog’s responses.

        1. lazuli*

          She shouldn’t have to disclose what her disability is, just that she has one. Given this HR person’s attitude and the CEO’s ignorant response, I’d be really hesitant to give them *more* information that they might use to further discriminate against the OP.

    3. cwhf*

      Just came here to say this. Your physician can write a letter of medical necessity on letterhead and certified if necessary. This HR VP is an utter idiot.

    4. Mockingjay*

      The maddening thing is, OP already received permission for the dog from the previous HR.

      Is New Incompetent HR revisiting ALL prior accommodation approvals, or is OP a special case?

    5. Hats Are Great*

      Step 4 is, your state human rights commission may be VERY interested in talking to you. They do administrative hearings to settle certain disputes for people in various protected categories — racial minorities, breastfeeding moms, people with disabilities. They can also sue your employer on behalf of the state, which has an interest in citizens being treated fairly.

      They can also advise you on your rights and possible next steps. In my state, running afoul of the state human rights commission comes with treble damages for you AND the offender pays all your lawyer costs.

  4. Whynot*

    WTF is wrong with people? OP, I hope this gets resolved quickly, and to your satisfaction – but if your CEO and VP are that obtuse about this issue, I’d be watching for other red flags…and updating my resume.

    1. Anonny*

      We live in an ableist society that has trained people to think if they ‘catch the fakers’ they’re doing a good thing and might even get rewarded, rather than the reality which is that they are at best severely inconvieniencing actual disabled people, and at worst, doing extreme harm.

      1. QKL*

        This! I’ve even been “fake spotted” in a pet friendly store where my pet is welcome. That one was a head scratcher. OPs manager has probably seen too many gotcha videos on social media. I really hope OP goes the lawyer route, this VP accused her of lying, that’s going to affect her future there if she doesn’t shut it down hard.

    2. Feelings... nothing more than feelings*

      My guess is that the HR person is a conspiracy theorist type with poor critical thinking skills. It wouldn’t surprise me if this person is also a COVID denier as we are seeing they are the type of people who refuse to believe medical professionals, reputable media sources, and experts. Their thinking is seriously impaired. I suspect this HR person will turn out to be a serious problem in multiple areas beyond service dogs.

  5. LQ*

    So this may be an odd comment. But is the VP of HR asking you to do anything? (Saying you can’t bring in your ambulatory medical equipment/dog, or telling you that you must get a different dog?) If not and if your boss supports you, you may be able to ignore them and wait for them to get used to it.

    I still think you should do the other things listed. But if they are just a shitty hr person being shitty and you can survive a bit it’s likely that they’ll get used to it. It doesn’t help all the time, and it won’t help this HR person be less shitty as a human being and as a wildly bad HR person, but you may be able to move forward if they’ve just made some really bad comments but aren’t saying something needs to change.

    1. Myrin*

      That’s a good point. I read between the lines that the HR person wants to forbid OP from bringing her dog in but if they’re indeed just being whiny and annoying, you might be able to wait them out. (Contact a lawyer, still. Be as prepared as possible for whatever may happen.)

      1. Presea*

        Lawyer up and document everything. If the HR person keeps dropping these hints about the dog, and the OP gets fired for “other reasons”, they should be as prepared as possible to fight the termination in the manner of their choosing.

    2. TiredMama*

      I wondered this too. Although the accusation of forging paperwork would be enough to have me looking for a new job.

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        I read the letter and my BP shot up. I am for OP staying and calling down hell fire on HR. I understand she may not desire the fight but my outrage wishes I were an employment lawyer.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      As I was fuming in my first post, I realized this, too. HR Loon simply doesn’t like the look, but has not made any demands.
      So yes, OP, don’t react to her suggestions.
      To her.
      Document every time she comments, and definitely note the time and any record of her calling you a liar and forger, because OMFG, but stop talking to her.

    4. NeutralJanet*

      This is a silly suggestion, but could you try providing resources about seizure dogs? There must be some websites about seizure dogs, the services they provide, and the breeds that are best for that type of training; if you can find any sites from extremely well known and reputable sources, maybe the VP will accept the fact that small dogs can be service dogs? Obviously you shouldn’t have to do this, and the VP may not accept it being as your dog’s actual certifications aren’t good enough, but I guess you can try!

      1. Threeve*

        I’m thinking this is ableism rather than ignorance. I have a feeling that even if the HR Idiot could be convinced everything was legit, she would still not believe that LW actually deserved medical accommodations.

      2. Presea*

        I don’t think this is a bad idea per se (it might get through to the CEO or OP’s boss to get a crash course in how badly the VP is flirting with the wrong side of a lawsuit if OP includes materials about the ADA), if this VP responds to /medical documents/ by accusing forgery, she might respond to this sort of educational content with the same level of skepticism. Not that she should.

      3. peachy*

        I’d be providing resources on the American with Disabilities Act instead, because this HR person is clearly incredibly ignorant of the law.

        1. fposte*

          Honestly, I would be inclined to bury them, in an organized fashion. Here’s the note from my doctor; here’s the page from ada dot gov about seizure dogs (I just checked–yes, there’s an explicit mention, just use a website search for “seizure dogs”); here’s the page on ada dot gov about reasonable accommodations at work and penalties to employers for violating it; here’s the page from the state website if there are additional protections from the state.

          And yes, still get a lawyer. But that may not be instantaneous, and in the meantime you’ve set up the fact that there are multiple authorities on your side and you’re prepared to invoke them, and you can document that you provided your employers with this information.

          Though of course if you can get a lawyer on the phone in a day or two I’d run this by them first.

          1. velomont*

            Would there be any value to your suggested documents being attachments to a lightly ominous-sounding letter from OP’s lawyer to HR’s boss? It sounds like a couple of people require some serious sorting-out.

          2. Kendra*

            There’s also a section on the ADA site specifically about dog breeds (short version: any breed of dog can be a service animal, and it’s illegal to discriminate based on that), which I’d be inclined to print out & leave on the HR person’s desk (and also ask the lawyer to include with their letter).

              1. Marie*

                I believe OP has done enough explaining and providing of information. At this point I personally would have the lawyer doing that. The HR person etc has already escalated in unacceptable ways. I wouldn’t worry about “escalating”; OP has been accused of being a liar by people who in so
                doing are not only insulting but are breaking the law.

            1. many bells down*

              Yeah my guy is all of 11 lbs and he has some behaviors that made us wonder if someone had tried to train him as a service dog.

            2. Pam Poovey*

              I have a friend whose late service dog was a pit bull, and while it may be illegal to discriminate by breed, hoo BOY does it not stop people.

      4. Absurda*

        I was thinking this, too. Part of HR idiot’s objection is that she’s never heard of such a thing. Showing her that this is a legitimate thing might also help.

      5. Qwerty*

        I was thinking about this too – like, if they’ve never heard of seizure dogs, how about go watch season 1, episode 1 of “Dogs” on Netflix which is all about the process of training and matching seizure dogs… and if it does make this HR person have a heart then lord help ‘em

    5. Elbe*

      Yes, it could be that the HR person is complaining, but isn’t willing to actually do anything about it. I wonder if these kind of comments – implying that the LW is faking a service dog and/or her medical condition – would count as a hostile workplace. The HR person shouldn’t be able to make these comments at all, let alone on an ongoing basis.

      I think that the strangest thing about all of this is that HR isn’t giving the LW any path to prove her dog’s credentials. If the credentials she has aren’t “convincing” enough… then what is she supposed to do?

      It makes me genuinely curious as to how this person would respond if she simply asked, “How would you like me to prove to you that my service dog is legitimate?”

    6. OP*

      Sorry – that part wasn’t clear in my letter. I was so focused on not losing my ever loving shit in a fit of rage or tears I left out details. She is definitely a shitty HR person and has said I cannot bring my dog to the office.

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        I’m so sorry. I have no suggestions to add beyond Alison’s always-excellent advice, but…wow. Just wow. I am so indignant on your behalf.

      2. LQ*

        I am so sorry OP. Your rage is entirely justified. If she’s said you can’t bring the dog to the office then I think you need to go all-in on trying to fight or leave. Is your boss any good at supporting you on this? You mentioned going to the CEO so I suspect your boss isn’t particularly supportive. This fucking sucks.

      3. kt*

        This is infuriating and important. Please know that there is an incredible wave of psychic force coming for your HR person, while trying to buoy you up and support you.

        Ugh.

        What your HR person is doing is illegal.

      4. Lady_Lessa*

        I hope that you are lawyering up, even as we type.

        Being a contrarian by nature, have you asked what would happen if you had a seizure at work without the dog to warn you? I would use your judgement on if it would help.

        PS It sounds like the dog is just the right size for what it is trained to do.

        1. Web of Pies*

          Yeah this is off topic, but wow your dog sounds cool! I didn’t know they could sense seizures coming, how interesting. I hope you aren’t going into work during this, maybe some language like “my dog is no different than someone’s wheelchair, if I can’t have them around I can’t safely be at work”? Plus obvs a mountain of documentation + lawyer. Maybe a call to your state’s ADA or labor department as well? It could be a “hi what do I do, help” call and not a Rain down hellfire for me!!! call.

          1. JanetM*

            I am not a seizure alert dog, but I can attest to the fact that I used to pick up on *something* and wake up what felt like a fraction of a second before my husband would have a seizure in his sleep. (Past tense because he hasn’t had a seizure in more than five years.)

          2. Lucien Nova*

            Cats can too! When I was much younger and still had seizures on the regular, I had a cat who would come lay by my head every time I was about to have one (they often happened in my sleep) and wouldn’t move till it was over. My mum got quite accustomed to following the Very Determined Cat to my room to make sure I wasn’t in any danger and could just sleep it off.

        2. OP*

          For me personally the bigger issue is being unable to safely to commute to work without the dog’s assistance.

          The seizure alert portion of her job is an imperfect science and in that respect I just got lucky. She didn’t actually start doing it until about 10 months into our initial training together. She is professionally trained for how to *respond* to a seizure though (find a person to help, show my medical bracelet to that person so they know what’s going on, if she can’t find a person she pushes a medical alert button to dial for assistance, stay with me and provide comfort as much as possible).

          If I didn’t have her it would be unsafe for me to go anywhere by myself. I’d either have to get a ride everywhere or just not go places. Since she does alert to seizures I’d also be at a much greater risk of injury if I fell down when seizing but with her I usually can sit down or lie down in time.

          1. old curmudgeon*

            OP, I know you love your job and would prefer to keep it – and please know that is entirely within your rights to do!

            However, the appalling level of ignorance and willful refusal to accept their legal responsibility to allow an ADA-required accommodation would give me serious concern about other areas where they may be either skirting or flat-out violating laws. I absolutely agree with Alison and others that your first and immediate response should involve retaining an employment attorney (and as a side note, depending on the company’s response, they could wind up paying the attorney’s costs), but you may also want to consider exploring other jobs. The fact that you can articulate this saga so calmly and articulately speaks volumes for you, and while I don’t know what your profession is, I have to think that there are many other employers who would both be thrilled to hire you and to welcome your service dog.

            Best of luck to you – and I echo others in hoping that you will be able to share a happy update in the very near future!

          2. animaniactoo*

            It sounds like it would be entirely reasonable to say that you are not able to come into the office as long as your medically necessary and legally protected service animal is not allowed to come in with you, and you are therefore requesting that you WFH full time until such time as this issue is resolved.

            1. Observer*

              I think that this is an excellent idea. But not INSTEAD of a lawyer – it should be IN ADDITION TO that.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Agreed Observer.

                Unfortunately I have my doubts that the clone of former “HR from Tartarus” spouse used to know would allow work from home to happen.

                1. animaniactoo*

                  Well then, they’d be just hammering more nails in the coffin of “refusing reasonable ADA accommodations now, wouldn’t they?

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Out of Nesting.

                  Anamaniactoo, I agree whole heartedly with you it’s just more nails in the coffin. My question is how much damage this numbskull (what I really want to call this person is not safe for work) does before they get shut down.

          3. Ess*

            I just had to say – your dog sounds amazing! When I think about it, of course that makes sense that they would be trained to do these things, but it never actually occurred to me. I don’t even know you but am so pleased for this freedom that your dog provides you and I’m just so impressed and have had my mind totally blown!! Good luck with your situation – I hope it can be resolved quickly and with as little stress as possible and please make sure to update us! Best of luck OP and best of luck to your little four legged super star!!!

          4. WoodswomanWrites*

            This is all so outrageous and I can understand why you’re furious! In addition to all the things Alison and other suggested, I hope you will just continue to come to work with your dog and show whatever documentation you need to in the meantime. You enjoy your job and HR and your CEO are in the wrong. Document everything. It would be great if you could get HR and the CEO in email to write down that they are saying you can’t bring your dog.

            For example, you can write something like: “I am confirming our conversation on such and such date where you told me not to bring my ADA service dog to work with me.” And they either reply to confirm the understanding, or they don’t reply and that is by default agreement.

            And if they try to fire you for this? You will have even more standing from the advice you got from the attorney.

        3. Managing to Get By*

          Re the comment that it sounds like the dog is just the right size, I had thought that seizure alert dogs and diabetic alert dogs were almost always smaller. Every one I’ve ever met was about 20lbs or smaller. It makes sense to not have a huge dog if the size isn’t needed for their specific tasks.

          I am so sorry you are going through this OP, your HR person is just awful.

          1. Designdork*

            It think it probably depends on how much interaction/familiarity you have with service dogs. A large portion of service dogs are larger dogs, mostly the fab four (labs, Goldens, German shepherds, and poodles) because they’ve been tried and tested so to speak. Plus when you see service dogs in media they are usually larger dogs. Even the majority of well known social media service dogs are larger breeds. So I could understand why someone might be taken aback the first time they meet a smaller service dog. I don’t understand why someone would then immediately think it’s a fake though! It just goes to show that there’s so much ignorance around service dogs and the tasks they can be trained to do.

      5. Elbe*

        Wow, this is so much worse.

        I really think it’s time for a lawyer. If you’re required to come into the office but prevented from bringing your service dog, they are knowingly putting your health at risk. That is so, so unacceptable. She’s not legally able to do this.

        If it comes to it, I hope that you sue them into oblivion. This is exactly the type of thing that should not be happening in the workplace. No one should be able to decide on a whim that someone can’t have what they need to stay safe.

      6. Jules the 3rd*

        We will be happy to lose our shit on your behalf! BLARGLE upon that nimrod!

        I like fpost’s suggestion on top of #3, maybe with a script of, “Hi Boss – I can’t come to work because I can’t bring my service dog, as described in ada’s ‘seizure dog’ page (hand it to her) to work, despite ada’s accomodation page (also hand to her) (and the prior work accommodation) (and any state protections) because HR is banning my dog. Can we write up a formal ADA accommodation for my file referencing this ADA documentation so that I can return to work, and can you drive that with HR?”

        Bonus points for a bland “I’m pretty frustrated with her harassment and ADA violations.”

        And yeah, get that lawyer.

      7. Lilo*

        I agree with a lawyer.

        I mentioned this above, but if you have a good relationship with your doctor, you might call them. My Dad is a pediatrician and told me about how once had to deal with a school that was violating a deaf patient’s disability paperwork and keeping his interpreter out of the classroom. This kind of stuff happens a lot. My Dad absolutely read them the riot act. A call from a grouchy doctor might help.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          My kid was recently diagnosed with a condition requiring accommodation at school, and the clinic repeatedly mentioned that they spend a lot of time training school staff and nurses and helping with language for 504 plans, because many schools are not prepared to fulfill the basic accommodations that are required by law.

      8. Kendra*

        I think that means she’s already violated the ADA, and it’s definitely time to look for a lawyer.

        I’m so sorry this is happening to you!

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Also some d4s.

          I have metal d4s with sharp points that are literally caltrops. I would be happy to contribute.

      9. TyphoidMary*

        thanks for clarifying, OP!

        Alison, if you have a chance, maybe this could go at the top of comments? (it significantly changes what input commenters might have)

      10. The Dogman*

        “She is definitely a shitty HR person and has said I cannot bring my dog to the office.”

        She has breached the law and you can sue for quite a lot of money then.

        If you like th CEO etc you can be nice and warn them unless this is changed and the HR person is slapped back into line sharply you will sue, but personally I think you should take them for every penny you can squeeze and go get a new job to match the house you can buy with the payout.

        The only way that corporations learn is through serious financial penalties, so get give them one!

        Good luck.

        1. Zelda*

          Don’t warn them you are going to sue unless your lawyer advises it. It is very easy to unwittingly say something that damages your legal strategy, as well as possibly looking like one of those unreasonable people who makes ‘lawsuit’ noises over mere inconveniences.

          This is no mere inconvenience; this is deadly serious.

          1. Omnivalent*

            This. You know those movies where a character figures out who the murderer is, and decides to go alone to confront the murderer and tell them they know everything? Don’t be the lawsuit equivalent.

      11. JSPA*

        Does your workplace have a hard time firing people (multiple warnings, etc) except for illegal conduct? If aso, you’d likely be doing your workplace and coworkers a favor by a lawsuit. The sooner they are forced to fire her, the sooner they can hire someone competent.

        Ignorance can be fixed pretty quickly. Being a horrible person who disbelieves facts put in front of them and sees illegality and scamming everywhere? That’s not fixable in the short term. This person should not be HR.

      12. learnedthehardway*

        I would just go straight to the employment lawyer option – why the heck should the OP go through hoops to prove that they are entitled to their service animal? And they shouldn’t have to provide medical documentation, or anything else, other than what is legally required for them to get the accommodation (which they presumably have done).

        Let a lawyer craft a letter that lays out that the OP is entitled to their service animal and that the company is legally obligated to accommodate this.

      13. Disabled trans lesbian*

        OP, Document, document everything your shitty *ss HR person says and does.
        Lawyer up immediately, don’t try to soften your approach because this company is clearly unreasonable and ableist.

      14. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’m so, so sorry OP. What your company is doing is absolutely illegal and I hate that it’s happening to you. I hope you’re able to have a lawyer write them a VERY TERRIFYING letter about the legal ramifications of what they’re doing.

      15. Bagpuss*

        That’s appalling. I agree with Alison’s recommendation to speak to a lawyer right away – it sounds as though this is direct discrimination on the basis of your disability – I am not familiar with the law in the US but from what others are saying it sounds as though that is just as illegal there as it would be here.

        I’d speak urgently to your boss asking for confirmation that you can either work from home, or alternatively stay home on full pay while this is resolved, as you are being prevented from working safely due to the company’s illegal refusal to allow you to have your medically necessary aide with you .

        If HR hadn’t told you you could not have the dog with you I would be suggesting that you use Alison’s patented facesaving ‘I realised what HR said is actually illegal and I don’t want the company to get into trouble’ approach but it sounds as though this has gone beyond that.

        IS constructive dismissal a thing over there ?

      16. Omnivalent*

        Now is the time to create a paper trial in a way that lets anyone over her head understand that you are creating a paper trail.

        In writing (like email), copied to all relevant VPs: “Hi Fergusina, it’s my understanding from our discussions this week that you have said I cannot bring my service dog to the office, even though I have provided medical documentation on (date) and documentation from the training facility on (date) confirming that I have a legitimate medical condition and that my dog provides an essential service to assist me with my medical condition. Your directive appears to conflict with the ADA and puts me at serious medical risk. Can you please give me more information to help me understand your position?”

        At the same time, of course, you’re talking to an employment lawyer and brushing up your resume. I am guessing that what’s really going on is that your HR person just doesn’t like dogs and your spineless VP doesn’t want to stand up to her, and you’ll eventually need to negotiate a polite exit and severance from your job.

      17. Lunita*

        I’m so sorry this is happening to you; that person should not be in an HR role. I hope you can get an attorney or medical necessity letter quickly and shut this person up.

        This person is so out of line! Grrr

      18. MeepMeep*

        I am sure that any decent employment lawyer would start salivating at this point. Please contact one (your local Bar Association will have a referral service), and don’t even bother with trying to reason with these people yourself. They’re breaking the law. Once they realize they’ve got a potentially expensive lawsuit and some bad publicity on their hands, they’ll fire that HR person so fast their head will spin and provide your service dog with a gold plated dish to eat its dog food from.

      19. Aitch Arr*

        I’m ready to drop several f-bombs here.

        That HR person sucks so much. I’m embarrassed that she’s a part of my profession.

      20. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        You should definitely talk to a lawyer and even file an EEOC complaint if they push this. Also, your doctor may have some good advice on this and links to articles to send to her and your CEO with information about service dogs used for seizure alerts.

    7. Just me, Vee*

      Although HR didn’t tell her that they couldn’t bring their service animal to work, HR is questioning OP’s honesty and integrity. That is something worth fighting for, rather than wait it out.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah. It may be that they are waiting for some legal advice on the matter before banning the dog, in which case they’ll surely be told that since OP has provided paperwork, and the dog causes no trouble, they don’t have a leg to stand on and it could seriously harm their reputation if they told OP the dog was no longer allowed to come with her to work.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        It would have been wise to wait for legal advice before acting, but OP has said (in a comment above at 11:30) that this HR VP has said she could not bring the dog to the office. So, the company is already liable for a serious ADA violation.

  6. Mostly Managing*

    Oh, goodness. I am so sorry you’re working with idiots.

    My temptation would be to find the largest dog I could (a great Dane? An English mastiff?) and bring it in tomorrow. If your dog is too small, how about a big one?

    I do not recommend this option. I’m just saying I’d be tempted.

    Lawyer up, and let us all know how it goes.

    1. Lab Boss*

      “Hello, this is my Boerboel, Muffin. If I have a medical emergency she will pick me up and carry me to safety. Do not get in the way of Muffin.”

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Please know I read this and choked on my sandwich, causing concern for my cat.

        I wish Muffin was around for the Heimlich

      2. Cold Fish*

        I love big dogs; it makes me so sad that their life spans tend to shorten the larger the breed :( Dogs are just amazing in general. I remember in the 90’s watching a 20/20 about dogs being trained to sniff out cancer in people, I would happily sit still for a pup scan :P

        My brother and sister-in-law have seriously talked about getting my nieces Goldendoodle service trained to help her. The dogs size is a plus as it could help stabilize her if niece’s wheelchair is not close by. Obviously not an issue for OP. Just an observation that sometimes the dog’s size is a consideration.

        1. JSPA*

          another reason why training the smallest dog suitable for the task makes sense, as does training mutts who show aptitude, rather than by default going for a purebred dog. I kind of wonder if there’s economic snobbery going on, on top of everything else? “I don’t believe they’d spend that much training a mutt”?

    2. Eliza*

      I was about to comment that bringing in a service miniature horse would be a great comeuppance if not actually a real solution (bonus if the service horse could carry the original service dog in a saddlebag).

      1. Anonym*

        “She’s too small to be my service dog, but fortunately she’s just the right size to be my service horse’s service dog.”

        1. AJL*

          OP, were I still in private practice I would write your lawyer letter for free. If cost is a concern, many law schools operate legal clinics, where law students work under the supervision of licensed attorneys to get real-world client experience. Yours is the kind of cut-and-dried violation that is a great fit for a disability rights or employment law clinic. Your state’s Disability Rights organization also has lawyers on staff and would likely be more than happy to assist and/or send a nastygram. Best of luck to you.

          (And as an aside, I am now an attorney for a large, urban health system. Our EDs have seen “emotional support” turtles, flying squirrels, marmosets, and canaries, in addition to your garden variety cats and dogs. Their idiot owners (who are always shocked, SHOCKED, to hear that the animal needs to stop chewing on the IV pole and be taken home) do a real disservice to people with legitimate service animals.)

      2. calonkat*

        Lab Boss and Eliza, you guys have managed to make me laugh after reading the letter, and for that, I’d like to thank you! Also, either a horse or huge dog with the small dog in a carrier is a brilliant visual.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I now have an image of the service dog dressed up in hunter-jumper clothes riding a service horse and it is the perfect addition to my Monday

      3. Dutchie*

        When Lord Byron was in college he was nor allowed to have a dog, so he was known to walk his pet baby bear.

        Just a random fact I was thinking of, a propos of nothing.

    3. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      Bonus points if the dog is Beethoven-levels of out of control. Sure, he ate a stapler and slobbered all over several keyboards, but he’s bIg EnOuGh so he must be good to go.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I have a St Bernard and I can attest that this is how they are 100% of the time. He would be a spectacularly crappy service dog unless you need to be dug out of an avalanche.

        1. PT*

          My MIL had a Saint Bernard and he would reflexively come and help anyone stand up if they fell down. He’d lay down next to them so they could hold on, and stand up with them. Alpine rescue was in his blood.

      2. OP*

        I do have a pet pit mix at home who is an absolute idiot of a dog. He has no manners and is pretty sure he weighs 15 pounds, not 80. I’ll bring him. Maybe he can wear my actual dog’s vest as a bracelet.

        1. The Dogman*

          Borrow a Mastiff or American Bulldog (giant breed) maybe?

          I know a couple of English Mastiffs who are around 200 lbs…

          That should be big enough!

        2. Justme, The OG*

          Please do this and take photos. I don’t even need to see them (although I want to) but I do want there to be photographic proof.

        3. Salymander*

          Maybe you can put a pack on your pit mix and let your service dog ride in the pack like a baby kangaroo?

          Honestly, OP, reading your letter both infuriated me and caused my inner rebellious child to start coming up with all kinds of hijinx for you to use at work. I have approximately ten million impractical and silly plans spinning through my head, all of them Ill advised. It is like my outrage on your behalf has short circuited my common sense. The comment about how you should just replace your service dog with a bigger dog was just so awful and ridiculous. Like you are supposed to cheerfully say, “Sure, boss! It is totally no problem to spend tens of thousands of dollars and a ton of time waiting on the training for yet another, bigger dog *because the one I have now looks small*.” WTF

        1. Mongrel*

          That was my first thought, “This is a dog”
          As long as they can be trained to wipe their mouth the VPs trousers and left a good tip for the cleaners I’d be cool with it (grew up with a pair of newfies and holy hell can they shed)

        2. Designdork*

          Honestly I think the lakes of drool would be an added bonus in this “gotta prove a point” situation

  7. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    Your dog sounds amazing – your HR VP and CEO are terrible. They should be HAPPY that you have an awesome dog that prevents you from getting hurt while at work because a) they should be happy that it allows you to safely work and b) think of all the paperwork if you got hurt in the office.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      Right? When I volunteered at a museum I met someone whose service dog alerted them to cardiac episodes. He was a tiny little guy – maybe 15 pounds. How amazing that dogs can do this!
      I sincerely hope OP’s company comes to it’s everloving senses, apologizes, and never brings this up again.

  8. Myrin*

    Also, not impressed with your CEO. “Out of their area of expertise” my butt, then go and learn something about it, Jesus Christ. Their reaction sounds very much like they don’t want to spend any brain capacity on this issue and that leaves me, again, very unimpressed. Another good side effect of getting a lawyer involved would probably be that then the CEO would have to react in some way other than this pathetic nonsense.

      1. Anonym*

        It stuns me sometimes how someone can be so wedded to an opinion on something they KNOW NOTHING ABOUT that they’d rather hurt people than spend 5 minutes looking into it. Awful.

    1. phira*

      I KNOW, the VP of HR is bad enough, but if you’re gonna be a frickin’ CEO, then I hate to break it to you, but everything is gonna have to be IN your “area of expertise” to some degree.

      1. awesome3*

        THIS! You’re the CEO, you don’t get to toss things up to the person above you, you have to figure it out. Comes with the territory. It’s hard to imagine how they are good at their job when this is our example of how they handle things.

          1. The Dogman*

            In almost every single case of a CEO I am aware of they are exceedingly overpaid based on work done or hours worked… and they are never the ones doing any heavy thinking or lifting.

            CEOs are for the most part parasites who are there to facilitate the extraction of wealth from poor people and the handing of that wealth to rich people (other CEOs and the families who they work for).

            Small and medium business not so much, but eventually if the company goes corporate the CEOs go golfing…

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If you’re in charge of an entire damn company, you cannot ever end a work conversation with “that’s outside my area of expertise.” That statement has to be the START of the conversation, as in, “I’m not an expert on service animals or the ADA, let me contact legal/bring in a consultant/have somebody in the research department look up the relevant information.”

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      He may not be an expert, but nothing that happens in a company he runs is outside his purview.
      How does he handle conflict in other areas?
      Wakeen says the llamas handlers need a gross of pellets; Joeahqwin says we need a gross of BOXES of pellets.
      Well, it’s not my area of expertise, but Wakeen said he thinks that there would just be so many boxes in the warehouse, it can’t be right. So can’t we just order a gross and see where we are?

      1. Serin*

        I fear that when this CEO says “not my area of expertise” he means “too trivial for someone as important as I am,” because disability accommodations are clearly just exactly the same thing as a minor personality conflict. Grrrr.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Which is what I really think CEO feels. It is two women, after all. One who’s been here awhile and is “established” and new woman coming in, trying to do her job and “ruffling feathers.”
          jag.

    3. MissBaudelaire*

      I hadn’t thought about this, but you’re right.

      This is exactly what a CEO needs to deal with. It sounds like the CEO would just–rather not have to deal with this ickiness, OP, so can you like, sort it out? That’d be great.

    4. Cold Fish*

      I know, right? Is perhaps getting sued because you chose to hire this person in HR in “your area of expertise?”

      1. All the words*

        Ding! Ding! Ding!

        Good luck, OP. Both the CEO and HR person are terrible people. I hope this gets resolved very quickly.

        And yes, lawyer. A sympathetic lawyer. Make sure they don’t share the attitudes of your employer before hiring them.

    5. A.N. Manager*

      Amen to this. I manage someone with epilepsy who spent years trying to get a seizure dog, being matched, going through training, etc. I knew nothing about epilepsy or service dogs before I became their manager but I damn well learned about it – mostly from them as they are the person best placed to give me the relevant information. OP, I am so sorry your HR person and CEO cannot do the basics and that you are dealing with this.

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      “Out of their area of expertise” I can mostly swallow but “can’t you just get a bigger dog” is so ignorant it made flames shoot out of my ears.

      1. Salymander*

        Yeah, the “just get a bigger dog (so I don’t have to do anything about this issue I don’t care about),” comment was just the worst. Out of CEO’s area of expertise? Isn’t that why CEO is being paid the big bucks? Just do your job, person!

        And the HR person is just so awful. The ignorance/arrogance combo is terrible.

        Seriously, I am so irritated by this on the OP’s behalf. I just can’t even come up with any coherent thoughts about this. It is just that bad.

    7. hbc*

      That’s the biggest part of this mess, in my opinion. “Whelp, can’t you get another dog?” is breathtakingly dismissive. There’s being outside of your area of expertise, and then there’s living in a cave.

      I would go back to him and say something like, “This isn’t my area of expertise either, but I have doctors and dog trainers telling me that this is a legal and necessary accommodation under the ADA. It doesn’t seem reasonable to spend thousands of dollars on another dog that will have the same qualifications just because someone here doesn’t like small dogs. Can we consult with an expert so that we’re all clear on what options are available?”

    8. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Seriously. Bare minimum ‘in your area of expertise,’ dude? Knowing you cannot violate federal laws like the ADA, and also being willing to do three minutes of Googling that you cannot, in fact, ‘just get a bigger dog’ trained for specific medical service. Knowing that the HR person suggesting this dog is not a legitimate medical accommodation means she’s blatantly lacking critical knowledge necessary for her job, and frankly I would be questioning her qualifications.

    9. Blue*

      I’m curious to know what else this CEO considers “out of their area of expertise”, especially when it comes to following the law.

  9. Presea*

    I am so, so appalled that you’re going through this. I second Alison’s advice to lawyer up, and to document, document, document everything this HR person is saying, and whatever your boss/this HR person’s boss says if you loop them in as well – you refer to them as the VP of HR, so I am hoping beyond hope that there’s a President of HR or something you can talk to. If there’s anyone above this VP’s head at all, I’d say loop them in.

    (This part is more petty than actual advice, but maybe send a meeting followup to the VP and bcc their boss if they have one, as well as your boss – “Just wanted to follow up about the meeting we had regarding my service dog and the documentation I provided about her which you raised concerns about the validity of….”)

    1. CBB*

      I don’t think that last part is petty. Their reply will either clear up the matter or give the lawyer something to work with.

      (At companies I’ve worked with “VP” is the title of the heads of major departments — VP of Engineering, VP of Marketing, VP of Manufacturing, etc. — and they report to the President/CEO of the company. If LW’s employer is similar, VP of HR would be the top-ranking HR professional at the company.)

    2. Megbyte*

      I like the idea of a follow up in writing. However, I wouldn’t put others as Bcc. They need to see this HR Loon for who they are and what is being said. It’s also documentation for future reference that others have seen this and have done nothing about it.

      1. Dasein9*

        Yeah, use cc, not bcc. The HR person should be aware that people who outrank her are in the loop. Going over her head is absolutely appropriate in this circumstance.

    3. Longtime Lurker*

      Yes! Document, document, document, regardless of what you do next. No telling what these loons might do. OP, please read advice on this blog about collecting documentation. Things like printing out a copy and not trusting it’ll be saved in your work email account. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s good protection to have.

  10. Stella*

    The rage I feel at this HR person…

    OP, if your dog has ever alerted to a seizure while you’re at work, do you have any witnesses who you could get to state that they’ve seen your dog in action? It’s a ridiculous thing to have to do to prove that your dog is a seizure alerting service dog, but if any of your coworkers or managers have actually been witness to it, perhaps that would get through to this HR person. I wish you the best of luck with this; this would infuriate me!

    I also highly recommend getting a lawyer, because if they won’t let you keep the dog while you work, you could sue them for all they’re worth.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I have half a suspicion the VP may also be coming from a place of ableism regarding epilepsy. A lot of people still carry vaguely Victorian ideas in the back of their head about The Dangerous Epileptic and think that at best it renders you unfit to work in any capacity, and at worse puts the people around you in danger. So the VP may be intimating that LW doesn’t have ‘real’ epilepsy, since she’s good at her job and well respected, so doesn’t need the dog. I’d be wary of emphasising having seizures at work, if I’m right, because it may prompt VP to push LW out even harder (because denying her service dog, with a vague ‘oh, we’d allow a different service dog’ rationale, feels a lot like ‘we wouldn’t force anyone with a service dog to quit, but we want you to’).

    2. OP*

      We work from home most of the time. Even before the pandemic it was a 50/50 split and now with Covid I’ve been in the office a dozen times or so. I’ve had a couple of seizures in the office, though only one in the past two years. My dog did alert and I was able to sit myself down but nobody saw that part of it because the office is mostly empty. My boss (who supports me) then arrived – I obviously don’t know the exact timing but she says my dog hadn’t left me to go find someone so it had to have been early on. When she got there the dog pawed at my hand to indicate my bracelet which she does regardless of who is around or who knows about my condition (she doesn’t know who does and doesn’t know so she just tells everyone) and then laid across my chest for comfort, which is another trained job of hers. The VP of HR arrived some time after that.

      The VP of HR is focused on the “comfort” part and is using that as validation that my dog is just an emotional support animal or a well-trained pet.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Fired? I want the VP of HR drawn, quartered, and hung up in the stockades for a fortnight. Maybe not in that order.

          None of that is legal, but then neither is denying someone their medically necessary service dog.

        2. Yessica Haircut*

          Yes, this is genuinely horrifying. How the hell did this loony tune end up in a leadership position in HR?! She’s an enormous liability to the company.

      1. Elbe*

        I am so shocked by this. She’s focusing on the one little comfort task and ignoring… all the rest of it?

        At first this seemed like gross incompetence, but now it seems like it could actually be malicious in some way. I can’t imagine anyone being this obtuse, especially if they work in HR and have theoretically been trained in this.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          After reading this, yeah I am wondering if there’s some maliciousness involved, even if it’s based on ableism rather than person animosity.

          1. Elbe*

            Agreed. It sounds like maybe they’re intentionally trying to get her to quit. Maybe they think that her condition is a liability (which would be incredibly ironic considering they’re acting like they want to get sued) or maybe they’re just really biased?

            Something is going on here.

            1. Anonybonnie*

              My experience may not be relevant because my seizures are complex-partial rather than grande Mal (what my obnoxious college roommate called “real” seizures) but I know that because my seizures become worse when I’m stressed or hungry and tend to affect my emotions afterward, some jerks tend to insist I’m faking it.

        2. Observer*

          At first this seemed like gross incompetence, but now it seems like it could actually be malicious in some way. I can’t imagine anyone being this obtuse, especially if they work in HR and have theoretically been trained in this.

          Even without training, this looks a lot more like malice than incompetence. Unless this person knows where the bodies are buried, as they say.

      2. Stella*

        So your VP saw you in a post seizure state and decided to just see it as you were sitting on the floor and getting snuggles from your dog? Absolutely ridiculous, this VP is an idiot.

        1. hbc*

          That’s my “favorite” part of this mess. “I don’t believe your documentation, so get another animal with the same documents and you’re golden.”

      3. awesome3*

        Your VP of HR witnessed your dog in action… and doesn’t think it’s real? I am so sorry and furious on your behalf, OP.

      4. Web of Pies*

        If your dog laid on your chest, you were presumably LAYING ON THE GROUND and that’s still not enough for this HR person??? wtffffff

        1. quill*

          My guess is that VP of HR witnessed the disability in action and now wants OP out because of whatever flimsy ableist rationale you can fit on your ableism bingo sheet. She probably did not know OP was disabled prior to that moment…

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        You were laying in a position where the dog *could* rest on your chest.

        That would signal to me that something major happened, and I would be going out of my way to make sure you had ANYTHING you needed or thought you needed or that I could think of that you might need (‘want a couch in your office’ kind of things), not trying to harass you and take away what you have already told us you need.

        Your HR person is *AWFUL*. The skin on my head is crawling with anger and disgust on your behalf.

      6. Just Jess*

        I’m curious, did you already have a “reasonable accommodation per the ADA” on file with your employer prior to the VP of HR arriving? It could be the case that the VP of HR is trying to standardize and document things that were once fuzzy. The VP of HR is clearly terrible at doing this, but is their motivation based on rectifying previously lax rules?

        Also, you told the CEO and your employer doubled down on their illegal behavior. IANAL – Document their statements, document that you asked for a reasonable accommodation and provided the appropriate paperwork, document their continued asinine refusal, and collect your apologies and reparation. This reminds me of the letter from the person who was disciplined after someone else stole their lunch and got sick from it being too spicy for them. That one had a sweeeeeeet conclusion.

        1. Observer*

          It could be the case that the VP of HR is trying to standardize and document things that were once fuzzy. The VP of HR is clearly terrible at doing this, but is their motivation based on rectifying previously lax rules?

          Totally not possible. The OP provided documentation which the VP claimed was false. That is NOT how you “standardize” anything! Her argument is “I’ve never seen it” – and argument that it utterly at odds with even a theoretical claim to try to “standardize” things.

          Also, once you ACTUALLY SEE the accommodation in action, if you are concerned about “standards” and “documentation”, you focus on making sure that you have the correct pieces of paper in a collaborative manner, rather than claiming that since ONE piece could be seen in a certain way if you squint REALLY hard, that means we’re just going to ban it.

          1. Just Jess*

            Ahh, I see how what I put could be misinterpreted, particularly with all of the passion around the letter. I wanted to emphasize that the OP may have never been asked to provide documentation before the VP of HR started. My reading was that the OP presented documentation to the VP of HR and that it was incorrectly rejected. It was (still is?) ambiguous if there was already something in place in writing per ADA that the VP of HR is trying to overturn.

        2. Lizzo*

          But if the VP’s only motivation was standardizing and documenting, then why claim that the documents OP provided must be forgeries? And why the insistence on getting a larger dog?

      7. kittymommy*

        OP you VP is an idiot. So just be cause she’s never seen/heard of a service dog that size then it must not exist??? Dumbass (her not you!!).

        I typically am not big on pulling the attorney trigger unless absolutely necessary but yeah, you gotta call and employment lawyer. I wouldn’t do anything else because she’s not going to pay attention to anything else. It’ll be the certification from the school is faked, the Dr. isn’t a real dr, etc. Hopefully she’ll wise up when the org gets the threat of an ADA lawsuit noticed to them.

      8. Observer*

        The VP of HR is focused on the “comfort” part and is using that as validation that my dog is just an emotional support animal or a well-trained pet.

        What!?!?!?!?

        You actually had a seizure, and the dog did what she was trained to do and you VP claims that because SHE only saw the LAST item, the rest of it “didn’t happen”?!

        She’s not only a terrible and stupid person. She’s also a liar -and a bad one. There is no way she doesn’t know that this is a genuine service animal. I don’t know what her agenda is, but she’s flat out lying to get rid of the dog.

      9. Batgirl*

        There’s something wrong with this person’s logic beyond mere ignorance and callousness. They saw something with their own eyes but still wholesale disbelieve it and have no curiosity as to any gaps in understanding of what they saw. That’s a special kind of willful obtuseness. I have to wonder what kind of company could have hired them.

        1. Salymander*

          Well, the CEO sounds like *exactly* the sort of foolish jackass who would hire this cruel, ableist HR person. They are both just awful.

          I hope that the huge number of commenters all saying some version of, “Bad! Very Bad!!!” will feel like a chorus of support to the OP. Because damn, the CEO and HR both just suuuuck. They are both full of evil bees.

      10. Mitford*

        Your HR also probably thinks that only people with visible disabilities (leg braces, amputees, etc.) need handicapped parking spaces. As someone who once retained a lawyer for a sticky employment situation, I second the recommendation to get one involved.

      11. Salymander*

        So HR witnessed the dog performing it’s job (quite admirably, I must say! Good dog!). And HR still thinks it isn’t a real thing. I just can’t even imagine the level of ignorance, arrogance and cruelty a person would need to have to *see the dog do it’s job* and still say it isn’t a real service dog.

      12. Susanna*

        Oh my goodness, OP. That tale made me love your dog even more and despise your HR even more. If those things are possible.

      13. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        What’s even crazier about this is that there are actual service dogs that are not emotional support animals, but real service dogs, that help people with mental illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder. This woman does not get to decide what conditions or what services make an animal a service dog. That is done by medical professionals and the entities licensed to train and certify service animals.

        I hope your company gets a massive fine and she gets booted out of her job!

  11. Cat Tree*

    Wut. You provided medical documentation and were accused of forgery. What would even convince this person? If your doctor came in person to explain it, would she accuse you of hiring an actor?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m going half feral imagining what this person’s mind must be like. Everything they’ve never encountered personally is untrue and everyone corroborating the thing they’ve never encountered before is a lying liar who lies.

    2. OftenOblivious*

      I’m also rather concerned for future FMLA requests (or similar) from other employees — how many will be accused of falsifying records?

    3. generic_username*

      I can’t wrap my head around thinking that someone is the sort of person who would forge a medical document but also keeping them as an employee….. Like, the HR person is missing a few brain cells.

      1. Batgirl*

        Because this type of dog is something theydidn’t know aboutand don’t understand. All that is required is for OP to remove such an inconvenient offence to their authority and intelligence and the HR person can relapse back into lazy thought patterns where they don’t have to learn anything new.

        1. Zelda*

          What’s that quip about “People can be gracious and forgive you for being wrong, but they will never, ever forgive you for being right”? This goon masquerading as HR is horrible.

    4. LCH*

      how far into the lawsuit do you think they would continue to think the attorney and court correspondence were fake?

      1. Cat Tree*

        Ok, now I’m imagining a scene that plays out with her in a jail cell for contempt of court, after she refused to pay the fine or appear in court. And even in her jail cell she’s just fuming because she thinks that OP went to the trouble of hiring an entire court and jail full of actors, and built an actual functioning prison building. And still she refuses to accept the dog.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I’m laughing at this to keep from shouting lots of not safe for work words.

        This HR person needs to be sent to Tartarus, yesterday, and left there permanently.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And not have Damasen the Giant or Bob the Good Titan to help her escape.

          (For those who don’t know them, those are characters from “House of Hades” by Rick Riordan)

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I’m not familiar with Tartarus, but I was thinking Azkaban might be a good choice.

          I’ll let someone who is familiar with both universes tell us which would be better. ;-D

    5. Pam Poovey*

      My brain went to wondering if the only way the HR schmuck would be convinced is if LW actually had a seizure in front of them. (Obviously I’m not actually suggesting this.)

  12. Ginger Baker*

    WOW, I have read a number of emails that make me angry but tbh this might be the absolute top. Please take Alison’s advice and please know you do have a ton of people behind you who are so happy you have a service dog that helps you live with more freedom and DETEST AND LOATHE your ignorant HR loon with the heat of a thousand suns WHAT EVEN IS WRONG WITH THIS PERSON.

    1. Chilly Delta Blues*

      Second. Please contact a lawyer today and the update us once everything is resolved. Because I am honestly super invested in you getting justice and your pup being trusted to do their job.

      Hopefully the terrible HR person learns quickly and you’re able to prevent someone down the line from experiencing a similar situation at their hands.

  13. Essentially Cheesy*

    Total Ignorance doesn’t even seem to cover this HR VP and their weird attitude. Add Total Insensitivity and call a recommended lawyer ASAP.

  14. ENFP in Texas*

    Service animals are covered by the ADA (emotional support animals are not), and I wholeheartedly agree that getting legal advice and possibly representation is the right move.

    PS: Your HR person is in the wrong profession.

  15. misspiggy*

    Stories like these make me have to stop, take a breath and remind myself that most people are reasonable humans.

    But the few who aren’t do so much damage, mostly because of people like the CEO, who can’t be bothered to confront loons when they harm others.

    1. kiki*

      The audacity of the CEO to ask if LW “couldn’t just get a bigger dog.” So he acknowledges the VP of HR is just wildin’ but it’s more convenient to them for LW to upend their life and their service dog’s just to satisfy the inane critique of an idiot. What an abdication of duty to your employees.

      1. Web of Pies*

        Ooooo what if she (facetiously) agreed like “great, well this one cost $25,000 in training *hands binder full of training invoices/certifications to boss* , since you’re asking me to replace her, how will you be paying?”

        1. Elenna*

          Lol yeah I said something similar above, something tells me that if OP actually presented Idiot CEO with a bill of tens of thousands of dollars for a new dog they would change their tune quickly!

          I mean, obviously OP shouldn’t actually get a new dog even if the company pays for it (it would be a ton of time wasted, OP and their current dog have already bonded, their current dog is good at alerting them of future seizures which a different one might not be, etc) but it’s an amusing thought at least.

        2. Designdork*

          Honestly $25K could even be on the low end for the cost of a service dog. Not to mention the waiting list is often years

  16. TiredMama*

    I am so mad particularly that OP may have to spend money on a lawyer because her HR VP is a loon. I would be looking for a new job after being accused for forging paperwork. I really hate the – just get a new dog. WTF? The lack of respect and critical thinking is galling.

    1. Ganymede*

      Yes, this! Why should OP have to pay out for legal advice to tell the HR person what they should already know, AFTER they’ve already seen the relevant documents?

      I might be tempted to suggest that OP go back to the VP and say they they don’t feel they should have to spend money on a lawyer to resolve something that should be perfectly obvious. Then go to a lawyer if the VP doesn’t immediately sit up in their chair with a start!

      1. TiredMama*

        I wonder if there are organizations out there that would provide free legal assistance. I suspect they would also have an interest in eradicating this backa$$ thinking.

        1. Threeve*

          If you google “disability rights nonprofit + your state,” you’ll probably find a dedicated nonprofit that can help you connect to resources.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In a court of law, you have to prove guilt, not innocence. So if OP faked those papers, it’s up to VP of HR to prove they’re fakes rather than OP prove they’re genuine.
        I’d point that out, and I’d send in the astronomical bill OP paid, and also point out that if the CEO wants OP to get a bigger dog, the cost will probably be higher, and since OP has a suitable dog for her medical condition, it’ll be a purely work expense, so it’ll be up to the company to pay, not just the initial bill, but all ensuing expenses (food, visits to the vet, harness, lead, it all adds up).

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      I I mentioned this to a commenter in the Friday open thread so apologies for repeating myself so soon, but OP should check out their state’s protection and advocacy agency. Each state has one, they’re federally funded legal non-profits that offer free legal advice and sometimes representation for folks with disabilities. They also have tons of resources for self advocacy, if op would like to try something with a bit more legal teeth before bringing in an attorney.

      (The ADA was mentioned so I’m assuming they’re in the IS, but if I’m wrong this of course won’t apply).

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          Thank you! I will add if anybody uses this list, I recommend going to your P&A’s website directly to find any contact information, as both the physical address and executive director are out of date for my state’s P&A.

          1. calonkat*

            I maintain some pages for a state agency. People not notifying us of updates is an ongoing issue :) And the legislature and public believe both that we are overstaffed and need to make cuts every year (we’re at 50% of the staffing of 20 years ago) AND that we should still have the same levels of service while having at least double the amount of work (everything has to be done both physically for those without internet AND on the web) in a shorter period of time because if information is digital at any point in it’s existence then it should be instantaneous at every point.

            1. Constance Lloyd*

              Haha honestly, this is relatable! And my particular state agency changed leadership in March 2020 so… they probably didn’t bother reaching out. The URL is correct and all the info on that site is up to date, so in my book that’s accurate enough!

    3. Kapers*

      Oh don’t worry, this is that rare SLAM DUNK where the company will have to cover expenses. Completely unfair that OP has or lay out the expense up front, though.

  17. Eat My Squirrel*

    Personally, I would loop in a local reporter. Because this is such complete BS I’d want everyone to know.

    And I would start job searching immediately.

    1. More anon today*

      IMO that’s the wrong order for those two things. Telling the media is a bridge-burning, scorched earth tactic, unsuitable if LW wants to keep working there. Have another job lined up first, if you go this route.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Well, yeah. I almost wrote it that way, but then I thought there was a slight chance that public outrage would result in the HR rep being fired and the CEO realizing they were idiots and apologizing profusely and giving OP a bonus or something. Which would kind of solve all their problems with the company.

    2. ObserverCN*

      I agree with contacting a reporter as a last resort. You’ll probably get the best results with a local TV station.

  18. kiki*

    This VP of HR is out of their mind. Coming into a new job and making up problems where there are none and potentially opening up the company to a lawsuit… just wild! And they’re also not giving you any way of proving that your dog is a service dog! You showed them paperwork that they just decided wasn’t real? This VP of HR lacks critical thinking skills, indeed.

    1. TiredMama*

      So many good points! Creating problems where there are none and creating a lawsuit opening where there wasn’t one.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Them saying the dog isnt real is the same thing as if saying a person who uses a wheelchair isn’t real. “just leave the chair at home, it doesn’t look right it our office:”?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Because of my physical disabilities I require a quite specific and expensive chair in the office to sit in. I transferred to a different office a long time ago and the VP of IT told me that my chair was too different from all the others and I’d have to have a standard black office chair to fit in with the rest of the team.

        Hahaha. No.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Told him if the issue was with the colour then they’d have to order me a black chair in the specific type. At nearly £2k a go.

            Never heard another complaint.

      2. JanetM*

        Many years ago, pre-ADA, I worked with someone who needed to use a wheelchair for a few weeks after surgery. She was told that she would not be allowed to meet with clients, would be required to stay in her office with the door closed at all times (lest a client see her), would have to call the receptionist for permission to use the restroom (lest a client see her), and that she should be grateful that she wasn’t being fired immediately (because if a client saw an employee using a wheelchair they would immediately think less of the firm’s professionalism).

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          OMG not only is that just horrible, I would hate to be the receptionist who was being pulled into this nonsense.

    3. Self Employed Employee*

      Yes, this awful person is putting the company at risk. With the standard “HR is there to protect the company, not you,” not only are they doing a horrific diservice to you, they are a liability to the company.

    4. Observer*

      Based on the OP’s updates, it’s not thinking skills that this person lacks. It’s integrity and basic humanity. There is definitely malice here.

  19. Elbe*

    but couldn’t I “just get a bigger dog”

    Whhaaaat?!?! How can anyone not know that service training is expensive? If multiple people at the company are THIS completely out of touch, I think I would have concerns about their judgement and about the company as a whole.

    At this point, there’s a decent chance that the LW’s dog is smarter than these people.

    1. Ariaflame*

      Ask the boss if they are willing to pay for the training for the replacement and give an estimate of how much it will be.

      1. Elbe*

        Yes, maybe they will find the dog more legitimate when they see how much her training cost.

        I am oddly upset on behalf of the LW’s service dog. This good dog is smart, goes to Dog College, learns a valuable skill and saves her human’s life and… these jokers are going to insult her because of her size?!? Who have they saved recently? Where’s the respect she deserves?

        1. Dasein9*

          Yes, it’s quite likely that knowing the cost would change their minds.
          In a capitalist culture, after all, value is frequently measured in dollars.

        2. Salymander*

          I know Elbe, I feel the same way. VP actually saw this (Awesome!) dog do it’s job, and still is like this. Such a horrible jerk. So ableist, so ignorant. Just awful.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s bound to cost more than replacing the VP of HR (especially in the long run, given how dangerous this person is to the company, exposing it to all sorts of possible lawsuits!)

      3. JustaTech*

        This makes me think of one of the most genuinely heartwarming stories we’ve ever had here, of the company that wanted to pay (help pay) for an employee’s service dog. Those people were so good, they had their heads on straight and their hearts in the right place.

        And then there is this VP and CEO.

      4. calonkat*

        OP says she has another dog as well already. If a third dog is required, and her housing doesn’t allow more than 2 dogs (or doesn’t allow dogs as large as HR feels they can legally require her to use?) maybe she should submit the housing cost of living increase she’ll need for the work accommodations that HR is requiring of her personal living arrangements.

    2. Cora*

      But also, why?!? I’ve never heard of a place wanting bigger dogs, wouldn’t it be easier to have a smaller dog in the office?

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          The reason service dogs for the blind tend to be larger is because they have to physically guide a human around & be able to protect them in situations that call for a larger animal.

          Other service animals are chosen based on other factors. (Not all dogs can sense when a person is going to have a seizure.)

          In my experience, dogs to help the deaf & hard of hearing are often smaller, because they need to be more mobile when separate from their human.

          This makes me angry because my mom worked for someone who had a Hearing Ear dog back in the 80s, & a lot of people would ask her to leave businesses, because they thought service animals were only Seeing Eye dogs. (That dog enabled her to travel safely solo all over the world.)

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, my understanding is that guide dogs are paired by size among others things, so they can guide their handler appropriately and also so that the use of the harness etc is comfortable – a tall person would find it really awkward to work with a small dog.

            But that’s simply not relevant for seizure alert so the dogs’ size is irrelevant.

            1. fposte*

              And some of it will depend on how they get their dogs and which dogs have aptitude. If they’re drawing on a shelter they’ll have a greater variety than if they have a breeding program.

          2. quill*

            Yes, if the seizure dog is supposed to lie on OP, it makes sense that it would be a small to medium-small dog!

            1. Salymander*

              Yeah a golden retriever might not be the best dog for the job, as that would be a suffocation hazard. Someone who isn’t wilfully ignorant, and callous might have noticed that the dog gets on OP’s chest to do it’s job. A small dog makes sense. The HR person and the CEO, on the other hand do not make sense. Not one little bit. I hope they are forced to back off (or quit, be fired), but if not I hope an employment lawyer helps OP to take them over the coals.

      1. CB212*

        Presumably the HR person is only familiar with seeing-eye dogs and assumes a dog needs to be a physical guide to be a service dog. But I’m not sure how any person with the internet (and local news, or clickbait about brave animals, or etc etc) could possibly be unaware of other kinds of services provided by dogs – never mind refuse to believe in them when given actual introductory materials about this professional dog.

        1. CB212*

          *Ah, I used ‘seeing-eye’ as a sort of vintage term to suggest this person is stuck in the 1950s, but have now learned from another thread that Seeing-eye is actually a specific training program! Fascinating.

      2. Observer*

        But also, why?!? I’ve never heard of a place wanting bigger dogs, wouldn’t it be easier to have a smaller dog in the office?

        See, you are asking a question that a REASONABLE person might ask, depending on the circumstances. But in this case, there is no true *acceptable* reason, so asking reasonable questions is not going to get you reasonable answers.

    3. Gracely*

      Part of me wants to suggest that LW bill the company for this second, bigger dog. Like, “sure, if the company wants to provide me with another dog as an ADA accommodation, that would be great.”

      I mean, that’s not going to fix the issue or the utter stupidity of these people, but maybe it would spark something to happen between the two brain cells they collectively possess.

    4. BethRA*

      Expensive, and aren’t something you can just pick up at the corner store. It can take a long time to get matched with a service dog, and there’s often a training period for both dog and human once they are matched.

      So appalled on soooo many levels.

      1. OP*

        I was on a list for 16 months and then we had two years of training before being cleared to work independently. The average service dog will work for 6-8 years, depending on breed and job (ex: mobility assistance dogs don’t usually work as long because it’s hard on them to catch and drag falling adults). I am on a list for a smooth transition once this dog retires, but yeah, getting another one just because someone is an idiot isn’t a thing that happens.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I am now super curious as to how one retires a service dog. Like, presumably you transition them to a pet, but — how do you adjust them to the fact that they no longer go everywhere with you and such? (Probably a better question for the weekend thread, sorry!)

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I talked to someone who uses a service dog once, and the quick answer (with the caveat that it may be different depending on the dog/organization) is that retired dogs live out their golden years as a pet with a new owner. The new owner is necessary because otherwise the dogs will keep trying to do their job (help their human with whatever tasks they were trained to do).

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I worked once with someone who was in the transition period with her service animal, and what she was doing was splitting days between the new and old animal, with the goal of in two weeks the new animal was now the full working animal and the old service animal was now just a pet who got to stay home and be adored all day long.

              This dog was for PTSD assistance, so was much larger. When she started the transition she ask the shift supervisor if she could have a few minutes in a weekly huddle to go over what her dog would do if she needed assistance, and how we could help. We’d had a very high staff turnover due to a prior bad manager. She personally wanted to let us all know – and it was totally on her own initiative. And this is also a totally personal choice, I do not think anyone who has a service dog should need to do this.

          2. OP*

            She’s my first dog so I can’t say how it will go specifically but she can either retire with me or I could rehome her with a family where she’ll be just a pet. I adore this dog so my goal is she stays with me.

            Basically she knows when she is “working” and when she is not. When she is on-leash and in her vest that’s her signal that she’s working. Even now she gets several hours off to just be a dog during the day. If my husband and I are just at home she can sprint through the yard and play with our other dog, sleep wherever, do whatever it is she needs or wants. Usually in the evening if she’s “off” she’ll still sit by my and she has alerted even when not working.

            To transition her to pet life we just won’t put her in a vest or on leash to work. Basically she’ll be off all the time. She will still probably alert for a while. If she doesn’t seem to relax into pet life we’ll look into rehoming but a lot of dogs make the transition really well.

            1. Tupac Coachella*

              No advice to offer outside of what’s already been posted, just wanted to thank you for taking the time to reply to general questions about service dogs. I am learning so much here, and your dog sounds incredible.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              This is all really fascinating, thank you for sharing! I am always amazed at how dogs are able to be trained in this way (and also how on earth people ever realized they could be trained to do these things!)

              I’m glad you have what sounds like a wonderful dog to help you and I really hope you are able to sort out this very absurd situation soon!

          3. Bagpuss*

            friends of mine had a pet dog who was a guide dog which failed their finals. He was a lovely dog, but had a very strong urge to make sure his people were safe crossing roads etc, so if you want for a walk with him, you needed to wait and hold hands to cross the road so he could look after everyone. If you tried to cross separately he got really upset (I guess the training about being off duty when not wearing a harness didn’t really ‘take’ )
            He was a lovely dog.

            1. Designdork*

              I used to volunteer with my dog as a therapy dog and the program had a lot of a lot of failed service and working dogs (they might’ve failed at being a guide dog or sniffing out explosives, but they make great therapy dogs because of their training). It was always really interesting to see what training carried over.

              1. PeanutButter*

                I had an acquaintance who had a border collie mix that failed out of a program for people who had limited/no hand function. She was great at picking things up you dropped. And picking things up you set down. And picking things up she just thought you might want to carry around. She was not great at taking “I do not want that thing you are trying to give me” for an answer.

          4. Ally McBeal*

            I had a coworker at an old job who helped raise service dogs during their puppy phase, and she was even able to adopt one of those dogs once she (the dog) retired from service. Said that even after 8 years away, she recognized my coworker immediately and is happy as pie to be lazy now.

          5. Designdork*

            Red Reader, I recommend checking out the YouTube channel for Molly Burke! She just went through the process of retiring her guide dog and getting a new one. There’s a series on her channel documenting the process and decision to retire her old dog. It’s super informative and has a lot of great information about service dogs (mostly related to guide dogs as that’s her experience having a service animal as a blind person, but still very informative)

    5. Ama*

      I honestly think this HR person has no idea what a service dog actually is and how they are actually working dogs who go through a ton of training to be able to do their job.

    6. Pam Poovey*

      “Just” get a different dog. As if on top of the expense people don’t love their service dogs just as much as anyone loves their dog.

  20. londonedit*

    This is so bizarre. I mean, in the UK most people would probably automatically think of a guide dog for a blind person when they think of a ‘service dog’, and the classic guide dog is a golden labrador. So I can see someone here having a momentary ‘Oh wow, I’ve never seen a different kind of assistance dog!’ thought. But this is still ridiculous. All sorts of dogs do all sorts of work, and it’s just stupid that your HR person is dismissing your dog just because in their mind it’s ‘not big enough’. I suggest they need to educate themselves about the different kinds of work dogs can do – your dog is clearly extremely important in keeping you safe and they have no right to dismiss that just because your dog doesn’t happen to fit the narrow definition of ‘service dog’ that they have in their mind.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Wasn’t there actually an incident in the UK where some lady told a blind woman her black lab couldn’t be a guide dog because she, the unpleasant lady, thought ONLY goldens could be guide dogs?

      1. londonedit*

        I wouldn’t be surprised; the golden labrador thing is very ingrained in the national psyche. Mainly because a golden labrador was historically the mascot of the Guide Dogs charity – years ago you’d have life-sized collection boxes outside shops and they were all made to look like golden labs. We do also have hearing dogs for the deaf which people would be aware of – and I’m sure a whole host of other assistance dogs, but you don’t really hear about those very often, and we don’t have the same culture of emotional support animals etc, so guide dogs are the ones everyone knows about and that’s where most people’s minds would go if you said ‘service dog’.

        1. More anon today*

          I didn’t know that was a thing in the UK. In my (American) head the “typical” guide dog is a GSD. But if I needed one I’d be happy for any breed. Dogs are awesome. LW’s bosses not so much.

          1. UKDancer*

            That’s fascinating. I’d definitely think of a Lab as a typical guide dog and a German Shepherd as a typical police support dog if you asked me to draw either. I wonder why the UK uses the one for guide dogs more and the US the other?

            German Shepherds are lovely dogs. My godfather in Germany had 3 of them and they were all beautiful. They’ve got a lovely temperament if you train them right.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s about the history of the practice in each country. The Seeing Eye was the big pioneer in the US, and the founder had learned about guide dogs from post-WWI work in Germany and set up her original facility in Switzerland. German shepherds were the relevant dog supply to hand, their big ambassador used one, and it became for years (apparently it’s recently changed) their brand breed.

              It’s funny, though, that the US guiding most associated with a European breed and the UK with a North American one. History and dog demographics can surprise you.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I have known a few people (military veterans with service dogs to assist with acquired disabilities) that were either German Shepherds or Shepherd mixes because of a need for a larger dog to assist with mobility.

              In the end I care less about the breed, and more am impressed with the dedication and training that these animals display while working.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes, that wouldn’t surprise me. Guide dogs often are labs or retrievers but that’s because the training organisations have decided they have the best temperament. A lot of them do come in gold but not always. The one I’m currently sponsoring is a black lab puppy for example. A previous Home Secretary (David Blunkett) always had black labs and lab crosses as his service dogs.

        There’s no rule that says a service dog has to be a particular size or breed. It just depends.

        1. CreepyPaper*

          The one we’re sponsoring is a German Shepherd and we’ve got her photo proudly on the fridge… and have had ‘wow is that actually a guide dog? I think you’re being ripped off mate’ comments from people. Definitely golden retriever/lab is very ingrained as ‘guide dog’ in the British psyche.

          1. JustaTech*

            That’s very interesting because in the US people often think of a German Shepherd first when it comes to seeing eye dogs (but labs for mobility assistance dogs).

      3. Cold Fish*

        I guess if you follow that logic, only German Shepherds can work with cops and only Dalmatians are allowed at firehouses?

    2. Phil*

      Guide Dogs For The Blind is located in my town-and has been for decades-and, because it’s Monday, today is the parade of Labs downtown as they practice their jobs.

      1. londonedit*

        Amazing! I had a friend in primary school whose parents fostered guide dog puppies while they learned their socialisation etc – everyone wanted to go to their house after school! They’d bring the puppies in to school every now and then to teach us kids about guide dogs and also to give the puppies a lesson in being around 30 excited children.

      2. sunglass*

        David Blunkett is the only reason I’d be mildly surprised at someone not realising that a black lab would be a service dog. As people have said, the golden lab/retriever image is ubiquitous in the UK, but David Blunkett’s black dogs were a very common image on the news/in papers when he was Home Sec. And it wasn’t *that* long ago!

    3. Bernice Clifton*

      I had the same thought – I can imagine having that initial reaction TO YOURSELF, but not vocalizing it.

      1. londonedit*

        And certainly not banning the person from using their service dog just because you’ve never seen that type of dog doing a job before!

      2. Reba*

        You would be amazed at the things people feel emboldened to say to disabled people. Often about how they are being disabled wrong (the Rando is suddenly somehow an expert!). Or cheating/lying/gaming the system for “special treatment.” It’s a super ugly and common attitude.

    4. Brightwanderer*

      I’d say that the attitudes are in general a bit different in the UK because service/assistance dogs are regulated (they must be providing a specific service that they have been trained in, like OP’s) and there’s no legal recognition of any other kind of support animal. So we haven’t had the “people can just buy a certificate for their pet on the internet” thing so much, although there are definitely still people here who’ve picked that opinion up via Twitter or whatever. But then, the fundamental thing with people like this always seems to be a conviction that there’s no such thing as a “deserved” disability accommodation if it in any way inconveniences them or is something they feel is “unfair” they can’t have too, rather than any actual logic…

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, if she’d just like not heard of this before I guess that wouldn’t be that ridiculous–but how can she just decide she doesn’t think it exists even after being told and having it clearly documented!? It’s such an easy thing to look up and just be like “Wow, huh, I’ve learned something new!”

  21. Murphy*

    They’ve never heard of a dog that does this kind of work? Do a quick google there, Fergus. Information is at your fingertips.

    1. OftenOblivious*

      I know! It’s not an obscure, brand new thing that dogs have learned to alert on seizures, low blood sugar, etc.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Click here, you’ll see.
          “I can’t click, because if this isn’t a legit site, I’m risking security. You lose.”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Tell them to read or watch the movie “My Sister’s Keeper”. That features a character who has a seizure alert dog.

      (But seriously OP – it’s lawyer time)

      1. Gganbu*

        Seriously! That book was published almost 18 years ago. The idea that seizure support dogs are unheard of in 2021 is balderdash.

    3. Mannequin*

      When my niece was FIVE she was telling adults to “just gooble it!” in an exasperated voice when they’d get into debates about easily provable facts.

      HR loon doesn’t have the common sense of a five year old.

  22. bunniferous*

    I wonder if it would help if you told them that you plan to contact a lawyer who could confirm your side of this? Sometimes just mentioning the L word can get people to start thinking right…..

    1. I should really pick a name*

      They lawyer would likely recommend whether to tell them you’re talking to a lawyer or not.

    2. fposte*

      It’s generally a bad idea to mention a lawyer until you actually have one. Either it’s seen as bluster (because it’s used so commonly) or you’re then redirected by policy to the legal department without having the legal backing yourself.

  23. The Original K.*

    I just learned how much service dogs cost so the suggestion to “just get a new dog” has me in fighting mode.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yeah, they probably think the OP can just go down to the local shelter and the dog will know what to do!

    2. animaniactoo*

      It’s not just the cost. It’s the interpersonal training time and bonding. Service dogs are not replaceable plumbing parts where you can just plunk a different one in there are the old one can be tossed aside.

      1. Bagpuss*

        exactly . I’m not familiar with other types of training but I believe for guide dogs they typically have a residential course to train someone to work with their guide dog, and the training the dog has before that has to be tailored to the specific person’s needs, types of environment they will be working n etc . It’s not just show up and walk away with fully trained and working assistance e dog

  24. Momma Bear*

    If the VP is new and there was no problem with the dog before then, then the problem is the VP’s perception of service dogs, specifically alert dogs. You can also have a dog trained to alert you if your blood sugar is out of whack, or one who will alert you to noises if you are deaf. VP needs to be educated, and so does HR. If someone voluntarily presented me with information from a training company and their medical diagnosis, I would accept that. Sure you could print something out, but also couldn’t HR just reach out to the companies in question? Surely the training facility has a phone or email… VP’s head would explode if they learned about guide *horses*.

    My bet is that once LW pushes back with a lawyer, the company will simmer down. Just uncool that they have to even consider it.

    1. Narise*

      Yes to all of this! Why ask for documentation if they are not going to believe said documentation? One documentary I saw the lady used a St Bernard to help alert her on her blood sugar. This was also so she could be outside, garden, climb out of bathtubs because she had lost a lot of strength.

    2. Frideag Dachaigh*

      And a lot of hearing dogs/blood sugar dogs are commonly VERY small dogs- 5-10 pounds, and many times mutts/shelter dogs (especially detection dogs can’t simply be trained to detect, and instead rely on innate abilities some dogs have). For someone who is Deaf/HoH, but with some residual hearing, the high pitched yaps of small dogs are sometimes easier to hear, or someone with a blood sugar alert dog may carry them in a sling on their chest because they find the dog alerts better when kept closer to their mouth. Ugh to all of this.

    3. Mannequin*

      Our ex roommate had a pug for a medical alert dog, he would alert him to the onset of a flared of his Serious Chronic Medical Condition so he could start the process of treatment (once a flare up started it was much harder to control & he could end up in ER.)

  25. BlueberryFields*

    Semi related note about terminology re: guide dogs. “Seeing eye dog” has been used in the USA colloquially, but “guide dog” is often a preferred term.

    1. Imaginary Friend*

      “The Seeing Eye” company was the first trainer of guide dogs for the blind in the US, and they have a trademark on the term “Seeing Eye dog”. So at least in the US it’s like “scotch tape” and “xerox” (at risk of losing their copyrights) and “aspirin” (lost its copyright ago ago): it’s the term so strongly associated with the concept that people use them synonymously. You’re absolutely right that “guide dog” is the best term.

      1. JJ*

        Since we’re talking about correct terminology: it’s trademark, not copyright. Significantly different bodies of law!

  26. Trek*

    Couldn’t the CEO just get a bigger brain? I mean if they don’t understand something that’s the obvious answer right?

  27. BeeKey*

    Depending on the state you’re in you may also be able to file a charge with your state’s Human Rights commission. If you hire an attorney they can handle that for you but you should be able to do it on your own.

  28. JMR*

    You know how when an unknown number calls you claiming to be from your credit card company, the advice is to hang up and call into the credit card company yourself, using the phone number on their website, because that way you can find out whether it was a scammer or whether the credit card company really is trying to get ahold of you? I had a similar line of thought here. Sure, it’s easy for people to print out realistic-looking credentials about emotional service dogs from a website, but if the HR rep was the least bit invested in investigating, he/she could contact the organization directly to verify it. The specifics of what the dog is trained to do might fall under HIPA protections (?), but I don’t think “Yes, we trained a service dog for X” would be protected information. The accusation that the credentials must have been faked is bad enough, but the fact that the HR person didn’t even try to independently verify this really makes me seethe.

    1. Bex*

      That’s the thing that I think bothers me most about this (there’s a lot of competition there, this is terrible in so many ways): that the LW may feel compelled to give, or authorize others to give, way more private information about their medical history than their employer deserves in order to stop the VP of HR from harassing them about their service dog!

    2. LCH*

      HIPAA doesn’t matter if OP (the patient) gives consent for them to discuss her treatment. they should definitely do this.

    3. Presea*

      But anyone could be on the other end of the phone! Contacting them directly doesn’t prove anything! And their web presence – anyone can throw a website together these days!

      (This is *entirely sarcastic*, to be clear. But sadly, I can see the VP thinking along these lines)

      1. Curious*

        This is getting a bit too epistemological … after all, how can the VP know that anything they perceive is true?

        1. ENFP in Texas*

          If it supports their opinions and beliefs, then it’s true. If it doesn’t agree with their existing opinions and beliefs, obviously it’s fake.

    4. Jackalope*

      Yes, this. If you receive paperwork that you are concerned is false, then contact the organization or company or whoever that allegedly issued it and see what they say. Look up their phone # online if you want to make sure it’s the legit number. This is totally doable.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’m actually thinking you’re onto something there. They have a fear of small dogs or something and it’s pushing them over into bigot territory.

        1. JB*

          Really? You think it’s about a personal fear? And not about, say, the way people’s attitudes towards small dogs (and ‘purse dogs’) often reflects their attitudes towards women?

          The stereotypical ’emotional support dog faker’ that people constantly point to is a straw-woman with an untrained dog she carries in her purse. You practically can’t bring up the topic of dogs without someone going on a rant about how small dogs are supposedly universally ill-tempered, untrainable, and – above all – unmanly.

          1. Observer*

            It could be any of these things, or a combination. I don’t think it matters. Because the bottom line is that this person is being an awful and stupid person and the reason doesn’t change that.

          2. thestik*

            If the HR person ever had a stint working as a mail carrier, a fear of small dogs is possible. Two co-workers warned me about small dogs in particular during my training. My (admittedly) limited experience showed some merit. The big dogs wanted to play. The smaller ones were looking at my legs like snacks.

  29. Stebuu*

    I would do the following
    1) Get a letter from the head of HR stating that my service dog is not allowed on business property.
    2) Sue the bajeezus out of them.

  30. stk*

    I know more or less nothing about service animals, and the idea that you could just GET ANOTHER ONE is so self-evidently bananapants even I can tell. You have a specific relationship with your specific dog! (Even if the dog wasn’t doing a specific clear job for you, which they are!) This is ridiculous.

  31. Susie*

    I’m just absolutely stunned that this person thinks her personal opinions about the “right size” of a service dog is at all appropriate. It’s obvious that is she is not properly/well-trained to be in HR. And the CEO- if they think you should get a bigger dog, then they need to foot the bill. Otherwise, they can shut all the way up.

    I support a lawyer assisting behind the scenes (at first) because this is completely awful. Accusations of fraudulent medical and service dog paperwork is just insanely inappropriate. Then if she keeps up, the lawyer can go full violating the ADA route on her.

    I’m generally not a fan of people being fired for a mistake, but this is way over the line of a mistake. She is accusing the OP of lying and falsifying paperwork.

    1. Former Usher*

      I agree that this might be a fireable offense. The mistake was challenging the dog’s status as a service animal, but doubling down after being presented with evidence suggests a combination of incompetence and maliciousness that needs to go.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I mean, this alone should be enough to indicate this person is VERY ill suited for the role, but the CEO doesn’t see that yet. However, if the incompetent HR VP lets her ideas about what is “the right look” rule her thinking in other areas, it won’t be long before she acts in even more obviously fireable ways.

    2. Elbe*

      This is definitely a fireable offense. And now that the OP has provided more details in the comments, it’s clear that the offense is even worse. This is unbelievable and this person has no business being in HR.

      She’s putting the OP at risk by not allowing her what she needs to manage her health, and she’s opening the company up to major legal issues.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, the business may not care about the OP, but they’ll care about legal exposure. They’re just too dumb to see what kind of doggie-doo they’re about to step in.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          There’s a joke there about how if the dog was bigger, the pile would be too, but …

        1. Elbe*

          I typically don’t jump to firing someone as a solution. There are a lot of situations that are more of a gray area, where a reasonable person could potentially make the wrong call.

          This is… not one of those situations. The morally right and legally right thing to do is very obvious. This person just has poor reasoning skills, poor judgement, and a poor understanding of her job.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah, apart from the sheer cruelty of wanting to ban the dog, the accusation of lying and even forging papers blows my mind away.

      At my former job, we made a note of any overtime we put in, then we were allowed to have an equivalent amount of time off later on. Just once, my boss started to quibble whether I had really done 30 minutes that I’d logged in the file. I could have transferred all the emails to prove that someone sent me a file, and I translated it and sent it back 30 minutes later, but I was so incensed that he thought I could be lying when he had zero evidence of it, that I told him that if he denied my right to take those 30 minutes off, I would never do any overtime ever again. He quickly retracted his doubts.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It may be a fireable offence but the person who would fire her is the CEO who said “can’t you just get a bigger dog”, so I think it’s immaterial whether she could be fired by a more normal boss…

  32. SparklingBlue*

    I would second contacting a TV/radio station/newspaper–and I would love to (literally) throw the book at this person and tell them “The ADA is not just a good idea, IT’S THE LAW!!!”

  33. generic_username*

    Stories of people with fake “emotional support animals” get over-sensationalized in the media and this is result. I’m constantly having to argue with my mom that you can’t tell that someone has a disability just by looking at them, and therefore, you can’t determine they have a fake service animal (and also, that it’s none of her business). It infuriates me…..

    I hope Alison’s suggestions help you OP, and that VP of HR needs to get some more training.

    1. Observer*

      ,i>Stories of people with fake “emotional support animals” get over-sensationalized in the media and this is result.

      Sure, those sensational stories run. But even just on the basis of what is in the letter, this is not close to being a reasonable response. Add in the additional information the OP added and it just not possible.

      I mean the OP actually HAD A SEIZURE IN THE OFFICE, the manager saw the dog show the OP’s medic alert tag, and the VP saw the OP on the floor with the dog in attendance. And claimed that this “proves” that the dog is “only” a comfort dog because it was trying to comfort the OP!

  34. Texas*

    I have provided paperwork from the training organization and my medical team, and they say you can print papers like that off the internet.

    …what exactly does this person want OP to do? Sure, service animal “certificates” aren’t real things but paperwork from medical teams and a dog training organization are and can be corroborated. (Given the just get a bigger dog comment does the leadership of this company just have 0 clue what service animals are?) I’m sorry you have to deal with this, OP.

    1. Observer*

      …what exactly does this person want OP to do?

      Disappear. I mean that. There is absolutely nothing that the OP could do at this point to convince this person.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I’m with Observer here. I don’t think there’s anything OP can do to convince the VP that she requires a service animal, and frankly I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask OP to do any further attempts at educating the VP. When someone sees a service dog in action and claims that it’s proof of the dog not really being a service animal, logic and reason are wasted on that person.

      2. A Wall*

        This is the thing that folks that don’t deal with ableism all the time don’t understand. People very literally want us gone, dead or otherwise. They do not see us as humans deserving of a life.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      This HR idiot seems to also not realize if they have reason to believe the documents are faked, it’s on them to prove them invalid, not on OP to prove them valid.

  35. NeutralJanet*

    am
    This is a silly suggestion, but could you try providing resources about seizure dogs? There must be some websites about seizure dogs, the services they provide, and the breeds that are best for that type of training; if you can find any sites from extremely well known and reputable sources, maybe the VP will accept the fact that small dogs can be service dogs? Obviously you shouldn’t have to do this, and the VP may not accept it being as your dog’s actual certifications aren’t good enough, but I guess you can try!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This would work with reasonable people. So would bringing in documentation, which OP did. And having the organization speak with HR Loon, which they did.
      End result: HR Loon calls OP a liar and forger; CEO wants OP to concede.

    2. TiffIf*

      It took all of two seconds on google to find the epilepsy foundation’s page on seizure alert dogs. If this VP were at all interested in being reasonable she would have done this type of search immediately upon receiving the paperwork from OP.

      (Random side note, I had never heard of a seizure alert dog until I read Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper For some reason I thought the dog in that book was a small dog, but looking it up, it seems he was a German Shepherd.)

  36. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Definitely bombard this new VP with the facts and proof from your physician and dog’s trainer, quote the ADA, etc. You also might want to cc your boss and her boss while you are at it. It is possible that your New VP of HR is trying to prove herself at someone else’s (in this case your) expense. Don’t let her.

  37. irene adler*

    What exactly does size have to do with the function of a service dog?
    (police dogs and guard dogs being the exception)

    Sure, a service dog may have to be large enough to reach a door handle. But that’s not needed here. And adaptations can be made for the shorter service dog.

    /sarcasm alert on
    So feed the dog more.
    /sarcasm alert off

    No, don’t do this. Follow Alison’s advice.

    1. Lennon*

      Actually police dogs are not the exception. At the airports they use tiny little scruffy cuties that are less intimidating than for example belgian malianois. They also walk between people and are easy to sniff out whatever you have in the carry-on bag.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        I feel like I read somewhere that TSA moved to using dogs with ear flaps because dogs with pointed ears were scaring people too much, and it made their job easier or something.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            A number of years ago I read about dogs who sniff out contraband food on international flights. They prefer small breeds (often mutts) from the shelter, because people aren’t as nervous around them. (And they can navigate around luggage more easily.)

            1. MK*

              I have a friend who trains drug-sniffing dogs, and his dogs all look like they should be following old ladies around nursing homes. Mostly spaniels, I think.

              1. UKDancer*

                Spaniels are seriously good as sniffer dogs, have a reasonable temperament and are fairly easy to train so I’m not surprised. Last time I flew I got sniffed thoroughly by the prettiest springer spaniel you ever saw. The main problem was everyone wanted to pet the dog rather than walking on by.

            2. quill*

              When I went to hawaii like 12 years ago, the import/export no food dog was a beagle.

              It bayed if it found fruit… you knew from the far side of the concourse that somebody had been trying to take an apple to eat on the plane.

      2. londonedit*

        Certainly in the UK you’ll have the actual police dogs which are usually German Shepherds/big scary breeds and they do the actual police work (chasing criminals etc), but then you have sniffer dogs which are more likely to be spaniels or smaller dogs that are less intimidating and better at sniffing out drugs and explosives.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The shape of each breed is directly related to the work they were bred for. Scent hounds have wrinkly faces and floppy ears because those shapes are best for scent work – floppy ears stir up scent trails in the dirt, and wrinkles trap those smells for later reference.

      3. Snoopy Got Me*

        Can verify – a beagle once narc’ed on me when I was coming home from Iceland because I had had an apple in my backpack (ate it on the plane) and I apparently still smelled like foreign produce. I didn’t even see him until he was seated at my feet and even then my reaction was “oh how cute, he’s working!” until I realized he was alerting on me.

        1. TiffIf*

          LOL this reminds me of my sister–she was flying from Costa Rica back to the US–she had to throw out an apple that she was meaning to eat on the plane because it was “foreign produce” except–the apple was very clearly labeled as being from Washington state. So this apple was exported from the US to Costa Rica but my sister couldn’t bring it back into the US. :D

        2. Lexi Lynn*

          Yes, heavens forbid that you deserve any comfort after having a SEIZURE. Drawing and quartering is too good for that VP.

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes. HR is totally ridiculous. I mean even the police use different size dogs for different functions. I went to a talk by someone from the Met dog squad once and they said they used beagles and spaniels for smelling things because they’ve got the best noses and you want a dog that people aren’t going to be as scared of, if you’re trying to walk it between people to pick up drugs or explosives. Different dogs have different abilities.

      The OP has the dog they need for their requirements and that’s all that should matter.

    3. JB*

      Well, a dog that performs functions related to steadying/bracing someone is going to need to be large enough to support that person’s weight (in an appropriate harness) without injury. Some dogs also perform functions that rely on their body weight. There are cases where a certain size of dog is required.

      But that’s not the case here, and being that the dog’s size isn’t relevant to its tasks, of course a smaller dog is preferable – they have significantly longer lifespans, which you’re going to want when you’re investing this much in a service animal!

      1. OP*

        Exactly this. Dogs that provide mobility assistance have to be big enough to help move an adult. I think 50 pounds is the minimum but I don’t know for sure. Part of it is for the dog’s health and safety and some of it is just logistics – a bigger dog is going to be able to help a person stand up, drag a person out of the way if they fall somewhere unsafe, or even help break their fall.

        I specifically wanted a smaller dog. She has a longer lifespan which means a longer working life. And I’m sentimental so the longer she’s around the better. Plus she can’t do mobility work which helped me get her a bit sooner. There’s a higher demand for dogs that can do mobility assistance. And honestly (pre-Covid) my husband and I were big travelers. It’s way easier to travel with a 20 pound dog than a 70 pound one.

        1. fposte*

          Interestingly, though the Seeing Eye only uses German shepherds, they deliberately bred smaller German shepherds so they can fit better under desks, on transport, etc.

          1. thisgirlhere*

            They’ve actually expanded breeds as have most programs (e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind).
            “The Seeing Eye breeds its own dogs for the program: German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and a cross of the Lab and golden retriever.”

            1. fposte*

              Ah, thanks, I missed that–my info was from 20 years ago or so. It was definitely a custom that was limiting them, so that makes sense.

          2. Liz*

            Labs too; I live near them, and have friends who have adopted “training dropouts” Mostly labs, and all were a bit smaller than a lot of the breed, for that very reason.

        2. JB*

          OP, I’m sorry this is happening to you. I suspect the person you’re dealing with has internalized the idea that “small dog” = “purse dog” = “useless, untrained, yappy nuisance”. Many people are more interested in making snap judgements about others than in educating themselves, and have completely shut out the fact that most small dog breeds (including many of the cute and fluffy ones) are working breeds and can be trained to a task like any other dog.

          Frankly, I think your best option is to compile documentation – what was said, when, and where, as much as you can recall – and have one more firm conversation with the CEO about ADA regulations before you employ the services of a lawyer.

    4. Frideag Dachaigh*

      This! I mentioned this in another comment above, but there are lots of cases where it’s not even a “size shouldn’t matter, smaller service dog can perform the same tasks as bigger service dog”, but “smaller service dog can perform some tasks in ways larger ones can’t”- some people prefer the higher pitches of a smaller yippier hearing alert dog, or a blood sugar alert dog that is carried in a sling to be closer to someones mouth.

    5. Green great dragon*

      Some breeds which happen to be large are particularly suitable for certain tasks (eg labs/retrievers/german shepherds for guide dogs). So I can kind of understand an immediate ‘this does not match my mental picture’ reaction. What I cannot at all understand is ‘therefore the OP is lying’ rather than ‘maybe seizure dogs are different to guide dogs’.

      Though I have just discovered there are guide poodles too.

      1. AmyP*

        Which makes sense–standard poodles are surprisingly big, when you think miniature (or even toy) poodles are the normal size.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Poodles are extremely intelligent, too. They’re among the smartest breeds, if I’m not mistaken–another good trait for a service dog.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I’ve heard that poodles are very smart and empathetic. Those seem like good traits for a service dog.

          1. Ashkela*

            Yup! My aunt trained her dog Scudo to be a great therapy dog. He’d go into nursing homes and hospitals all the time. She actually stopped giving him the classic poodle cut and started going with longer hair on him and no poof on his head and tail because people wouldn’t stop either challenging his right to be the places he was working or petting him. He was a smart little dude. She passed in May and he passed two days later at 15.

      2. WS*

        I have a diabetic friend with an assistance poodle! She’s a miniature poodle, not a toy poodle, so not super tiny, and they’ve worked together for 12 years so far. People with Type I diabetes are at higher risk of dying of hypoglycemia-related problems, especially in their sleep, so the dog alerts her to low blood sugar and can bring glucose paste, and can also go for help if needed.

        1. the cat's ass*

          My dearest friend has a standard poodle for DM and mobility issues, and dang, she’s the smartest most professional service dog I’ve ever met.

  38. The Prettiest Curse*

    Could we have an award for Worst HR Person of the Year, in addition to Worst Boss of the Year? Because, seriously, this should win.
    OP, please lawyer up – look into disability rights organizations in your area if you need help finding an affordable lawyer.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Oh, and I should add: having worked for an organization that served people with disabilities, these organizations are very, very used to helping people document their need for accommodations with schools and employers, precisely due to people like this HR arsehole. They may even know of additional resources that could help. So in addition to getting a lawyer, don’t be afraid to call in the organization that helped you to get your service dog.

  39. LCH*

    ooo, please send an update when you have one. mostly i wish i could be there when the employment lawyer gives the HR VP the what for.

  40. Jennifer*

    They are being so unbelievably obtuse and discriminatory. Your letter is written so calmly and eloquently, your patience is astounding. I would honestly be tempted to send them the link to this letter and Allison’s reply. (No matter what, I think you should show this to your direct boss.) Tell them you will be following her advice if they continue to bring it up. And then get the lawyer in case they are really off their rocker.

  41. lost academic*

    I don’t think your HR person is big enough for their job. Can’t we just fire them and hire a taller person?

    1. Elenna*

      Eh, I don’t know anything about that topic. Why can’t the HR person just pick up a taller pair of shoes instead?

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I once knew someone who actually asked that! In his defense, it was his first time at the ballet and he was from a very rural community–he leaned over to his date and said “Why is that poor girl on her toes–they couldn’t find someone taller?”

  42. BA*

    WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL??? LW, I’m sorry. This is crummy and absolutely uncalled for behavior from people who are supposed to be “leaders” in your workplace. I hope these two pull … nope, TEAR… a hamstring as they’re backpedaling after hearing from your attorney.

    And by the way, I think your dog is the absolute best. Give her some extra scratches behind the ears for me, please.

  43. KoiFeeder*

    *opens tab*
    *screams*
    *closes tab*
    *opens tab back up as if any part of this letter will have changed*
    *screams more*

    OP, run.

  44. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Just what is the point of the HR person making this statement?

    If OP could be lying about having the paperwork for the small dog, then they could lie about the paperwork for a big dog. Right? Would the HR VP ever be satisfied by anything OP does?

    Either this person is especially clueless and illogical, or they are engaging in step one of a campaign to ostracize or fire OP.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      This! They are essentially saying that the OP is lying and falsifying medical records because she wants to work with her dog in the office for Reasons.

      It’s insanely insulting.

  45. Undine*

    I just want to reiterate Alison’s statement that a lawyer doesn’t have to be adversarial, unless they make it so. They are the adult in the room, with specific and detailed knowledge. (Try and find one with specific knowledge about service animals, but also find someone you feel comfortable with.) I wouldn’t count on the company’s lawyer being any more reasonable than HR or the CEO, but there’s a chance that if they talk to them they will get a much needed reality check. Just stay level-headed, reasonable and firm. And remember, companies are hiring right now, and in the last resort, you can find another job with all the good things about this one plus a welcoming attitude for your dog.

    I wonder as I write this if other people have complained? It still goes back to your hr person being crap, because they should just shut it down, I’ve seen the supporting paperwork and this is a legitimate support animal. Even if someone is allergic to dogs or something it is HR’s job to figure this out.

  46. Harper the Other One*

    OP I am FURIOUS for you. The fact that you are handling this so calmly as the actual person affected speaks volumes about your professionalism.

    Please do contact an employment lawyer. But I’m sorry you have to go through this just to be able to exist with your service animal.

  47. CatCat*

    Wow. Not clear if she is forbidding the dog, but it seems HR VP is, at a minimum, trying to trash your professional reputation by accusing you of lying in the workplace. Given the CEO’s brush off, I getting a lawyer is the right call. Outrageous.

  48. Suzy Q*

    Add me to the chorus of WTF. Also, document everything! Names, dates, illegal and/or ridiculous things people at this company have said to you.

  49. Don't Get Me Started*

    Also, keep in mind that there are really only 2 questions that they can legally ask about your service dog.

    1. Is this a service dog?
    2. What work or tasks has it been trained to do?

    They legally CANNOT require you to produce documentation or ask you any other questions about why you need a service dog. You can be as vague as “my dog alerts me to my medical condition and seeks out assistance as needed.” You don’t have to provide documentation or “proof”. These walnuts are already being super illegal and could be liable based off of what they’ve already done.

    1. fposte*

      That’s true for a customer entering a business, but they actually can ask more of an employee seeking accommodation. There’s a good service animal page on askjan dot org.

  50. Smilingswan*

    HR VP should be fired. And so should the CEO. If there is any board at this company, I would let them know. Same goes for share holders.

  51. Caroline Bowman*

    I don’t know what to say to this at all. This is so profoundly outrageously terrible that it’s hard to know how to deal with it, other than, I don’t know, throwing stuff at this idiotic, stupid harpy of an HR person?

    The dog ”isn’t big enough” for… what? Bringing brandy to you in the snow? Dragging your body to the nearest hospital?

    I cannot. And the CEO. I mean, it’s just…

    Please get a lawyer involved. Don’t be too nice about it either. Just ask for a meeting between the HR person, the CEO and your lawyer and you and lay it out there. I’m so sorry that the onus is on you to somehow prove your situation is real (when you… have… proved your situation is real, so…). Please follow up and let us know what kind of hell you unleashed!

  52. HugeTractsofLand*

    Please please please talk to a lawyer, or, if that feels too extreme, at least talk to your boss and/or the CEO again specifically referencing that this goes against ADA law- along the lines of “I’ve provided medical documentation to HR and they accused me of forgery. The only grounds for their request is their ‘feeling’ that my dog should not be a support dog, which at this point seems like discrimination against a disabled person. My dog *is* a support dog, and I would not feel safe coming to work without her. What can you do to help resolve this?”

    I wouldn’t bother finding “witnesses” for your condition; that’s way less solid than a doctor’s note or the certification you already provided, and HR has already called that a forgery. Get a doctor’s note if you have to, but you shouldn’t have to- HR deals with all kinds of documents, and it’s *their* job to verify if it’s a forgery or not! Your HR person sucks and I’m sorry that no one’s supporting you yet. If they demand that you don’t bring your dog, I would seriously not go to work even if you have to use PTO (I would hope that you’d get it back once they come to their senses). Please send in an update good or bad, the commentariat is rooting for you!

  53. Cold Fish*

    Now this is one I’m really hoping we get an update on!

    Steam is coming out of my ears for this OP and I would love to give HR & CEO a piece of my mind. Definitely lawyer.

  54. Former Retail Lifer*

    I work in property management and everyone and their mom claims their dog is a service dog to get around fees and breed restrictions. There are no nationally recognized certifications and anyone can buy a dubious “certification” online. It sucks that so many people have taken advantage of service dogs being allowed everywhere that people with a genuine need now often face doubt and scrutiny. In our case, we ask for a note from their doctor stating a service dog has been prescribed or recommended to the resident. The notes don’t include any mention of the condition or anything personal; most doctors already have a standard template for this that doesn’t violate any privacy laws. Is this an option?

    I’m appalled that HR doesn’t know all the rules around asking questions about service animals. You can ask if the dog has been trained to perform a service or task, but that’s really it or you’re breaking the law.

    1. Liz*

      This makes me wonder about the MANY larger breed (and prohibited) I see being walked in my complex. We are allowed ONE pet, 25 lbs or less, and there are breed restrictions. So they’ve either done this, or haven’t “registered” their pet with the office, and paid the fee and extra pet rent.

    2. Observer*

      The OP already presented a letter from their medical team and the training org. THAT is absolutely NOT “easy to print off the internet.”

      Beyond that, the OP says in the comments that they actually had a seizure at work, and the dog did it’s thing – which the VP claims proves that it’s actually not a “real” service dog, but just a “emotional support animal” – because the LAST thing the dog did (after alerting the OP so they could get safe and then showing the manager who walked in immediately after the OP’s medic alert tag) was to comfort the OP who was laying on the floor.

      Any non-cretinous decent human being who had actually fallen for all the hype around phone documentation would have reacted with some amazement and “Wow! I never really thought they could ACTUALLY do that”. Not “Nope, it didn’t happen.”

    3. peachy*

      I think part of the problem is that most people don’t know the difference between emotional-support animals and service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform a job for a person with a disability and/or medical condition. They are protected by the ADA. Emotional-support animals provide emotional support to people with mental health conditions. ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which means that landlords must allow reasonable accommodations for them, but they are NOT protected under the ADA, so you can’t take ESAs places you’re allowed to take a service animal (like work or restaurants). The “dubious certifications” you mention are almost certainly for people who are claiming their pet is an ESA, not a service animal. But people may be incorrectly using the term “service animal” to refer to their ESA, hence creating a bad reputation for folks who have actual service dogs.

  55. Not Your Sweetheart*

    The HR person is absolutely in the wrong here. But this is exactly why I get so angry at people who claim their pets are service animals. Their precious pooch barks, makes messes, is uncontrolled, and I’m supposed to believe it’s a highly trained service dog? Yet it is very easy to get vests/patches and letters claiming just that. It makes us customer service workers skeptical, and makes it harder for those who have an actual service animal to get the accommodations they need.

    1. Former Retail Lifer*

      For real, what is she supposed to do? I look forward to the update when there’s a big lawsuit.

  56. ChemistryChick*

    I literally recoiled in my chair when I read this.

    OP, your HR person and CEO are the highest order of jerk. Jerk is a kind word here, actually. What I really want to say would get modded.

    Hoping for a positive update.

  57. CarCarJabar*

    I have a lot of thoughts:

    1. “WHHYYY are we judging the dog by the way it looks?”. Haven’t we learned that people of all shapes, sizes, colors, hair textures, native languages, genders or lack thereof, sexual orientations can all do a damn good job- why are we picking on the dog because its size?
    2. Would they tell a man that he was lying about his service dog? NO, NO THEY WOULD NOT.
    3. Everyone needs to google “Secret Service Friendly Dogs”- these are the very friendly looking explosive sniffing dogs who walk around IN THE CROWDS. Not the fierce, scary Belgian Malinois that everyone associates with the Secret Service. No, to fight terrorism, we need happy little mutts with great noses walking up to people and sniffing. Moral of the story- all breeds, all sizes, can be working dogs.

    ::Rant over::

    1. CarCarJabar*

      I assumed LW was a woman- which, after re-reading, is not a fair assumption to make. A man can have epilepsy, a husband and a female dog. I retract point #2. I over-emphasize points 1 and 3.

    2. Observer*

      Would they tell a man that he was lying about his service dog? NO, NO THEY WOULD NOT.

      Oh yes they would!

      By the way, how do we know that the OP is a woman?

      1. Observer*

        Oops! I just saw that you responded that you are a woman.

        I still don’t think that that’s the issue here.

    3. Pam Poovey*

      I would think scent hounds would be good with bomb sniffing, better than most breeds.

      (A dachshund would blend with a crowd but good luck getting one to do anything if it doesn’t WANT to, lol)

  58. Lab Boss*

    There’s a lot of (understandable) distaste floating around out there for the people who sell “service animal credentials” so people can bring their pets places where pets shouldn’t go. I always understood the answer to that, was that a real service animal would have a specific and articulable service it could provide- I can’t even fathom how someone can hear the specific, articulable service your dog provides and just say “no, little dog no service.”

    As a low-level boss, I absolutely agree with Alison’s point 3. Your HR might be a loon, the CEO may be so non-invested in this conflict that he gives terrible advice, but an even halfway decent direct boss will see this as something that’s absolutely worth championing for you.

    1. generic_username*

      I agree with the distaste for fake service animals and people that buy credentials for their untrained dogs, but I also think that people think it’s a much bigger (more common) problem than it actually is. Like, There are probably 100s of people doing it, not millions… Most service dogs you see are probably actual service dogs

      1. Cait*

        Exactly. The second the OP produced the paperwork, the HR person should’ve apologized and let her be. I’m appalled by this woman’s behavior and don’t understand the CEOs reaction at all. If the HR lady had said, “I don’t believe you really need that wheelchair! Wheelchairs are bigger than that and they’re motorized! Obviously, your wheelchair is fake and you shouldn’t be bringing it to the office,” I’m sure the CEO would’ve done cartwheels to have her reprimanded.

          1. Laura*

            Sadly that wouldn’t be true either. You should see how HR professionals treat wheelchair users. It’s just about this bad.

      2. JSPA*

        Except on airplanes.

        Too many people have come up to me when we’re traveling with our cats to ask for advice on how to get a service animal exemption. They sniff and walk off when we say that, no, these are our pets, and we pay the in-cabin pet price. They provide only the services of affection, purring, amusement, and dismemberment of the occasional house centipede.

        In my experience, many people who are scamming to get animal access are pretty brazen about it. brag to coworkers, friends, seat-mates. They suggest other people use the (nonexistent) loophole. And it’s often part of a pattern of brazenness. They also take the food that’s meant for the conference they’re not attending, leave with the hotel towels, ask for free booze on the plane. They’re not necessarily selfish–they may also offer perqs and freebies to people that they’re not authorized to give.

        But this letter is double kryptonite, because it melds “aggressive noncompliance with ADA” and “accusations of being a sh*tty, scammy human being who’s not dependable.” The first is illegal, but they both are inexcusable. I don’t like to get people fired, but this HR person…should not be HR. There are trainingt courses that would help them learn ADA rules, but there are no courses on, “how to be a decent human being.”

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Note that there is a body of regulations regarding service animals (it’s confusing in that it uses the same term) for airline travel that is different, and more expansive, than ADA protections for service animals.

        2. Marketing Automation Guru*

          My dog flies with us as a pet. He’s 12 pounds, and looks like a puppy.

          I’ve had airline staff approach me during check in asking if I need help with my bag and clearing my support dog. I’ve surprised several when I said no, he’s a pet and we are checking the suitcase and then will need to pay for his ticket. But they’re happy to get me to the right place after that.

          (My dog would never pass the requirements for a support dog. He’s excitable and just too obviously happy. He loves people and will immediately flop on his side waiting for you to pet him. Absolutely no ‘working’ drive in him.)

      3. Magenta Sky*

        Most people don’t really understand the difference between a service animal (which must be a dog or a miniature horse) and an emotional support animal (which can be anything and doesn’t really have a legal definition outside of housing and airline travel). Or that there *is* a difference, much less that the former has a body of law governing where they can be taken, and the latter doesn’t (outside of housing and airline travel, and few people realize how restricted those protections can be).

        This confusion is widespread, and is equally shared by people with service animals and people who don’t want them around both.

      4. Lacey*

        I’ve seen it crop up a number of places.

        Some I cared about – like the apartment complex that wouldn’t let me have my dog without renting a more expensive unit, even though there were 4-6 people with “service dogs” that were obviously nothing of the kind (from their behavior, not their size) in the cheaper units.

        Others don’t bother me much – like the family that brought their somewhat poorly behaved golden retriever to church as an emotional support animal and acted like it was the same as another woman’s seeing-eye dog. Annoying, but not the worst thing in the world.

        That’s several people just in one corner of my small city, so I do think it happens semi-frequently.

      5. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I think this was a big problem on airplanes for awhile, because if it is a service animal you didn’t have to pay to fly with it – so a lot of people were registering their normal animals as emotional support animals, and then pretending they were service animals to get out of paying the hefty fee to take their animals with them. Then things got ridiculous, there was a bunch of press, the airlines cracked down, and now lots of people are aware that this is even a thing that happens who didn’t use to.

      6. BethRA*

        I clicked on the link for this entry through Alison’s Facebook post – and I just got an ad in my feed for a company that sells service dog “credentials” so I can take my dog with me everywhere. Is it as common as some people think? Probably not, but there’s an actual industry that’s grown up around the practice.

      7. scribblingTiresias*

        I’m autistic and used to use a cane. I requested accessibility accomodations once to get through an airport.

        What I meant was that I’d need extra directions and maybe some help decompressing after security.

        What I got was a wheelchair.

        Please stop being ignorant about this, it’s a really bad look.

    2. Snowball*

      And there’s a dog that just went viral for doing what OP’s dog is trained to do! Knew what was wrong before his person did, allowing that person to get to safety before something bad happened. I know some people have taken advantage of emotional support animals but many dogs are highly trained to be more than just a companion like OP’s is

      1. Green great dragon*

        Can OP send the link to terrible HR person? Or was that dog larger than OPs?

        [Aaargghh. I also commend OP’s ability to write about the issue in coherent sentances.]

    3. Kendra*

      I’m mostly disgusted by those people because they’re scamming people with disabilities; the ADA specifically prohibits anyone from even ASKING if the dog is certified or credentialed, much less actually needing to see the credential itself! The handler is legally allowed to train their own dog, with no outside person or group involved.

      Businesses are also specifically not allowed to discriminate based on the dog’s breed (a Rottweiler and a Teacup Poodle are both absolutely valid service dog types). The documentation the OP has provided is already much, much more than they’re legally allowed to ask for; this HR person is APALLINGLY bad at their job.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        The only two questions that can be asked are “is this a service animal required because of a disability” and “what service is it trained to provide.” That’s *it*. There is no legally recognized registration service, or training credentials.

        https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm has the scoop from the people who enforce the ADA. There is no more authoritative source.

      2. Cafe au Lait*

        You *can* ask some questions. IIRC it’s two very specific questions. It’s been years but it came up at my last job. A woman was bringing her dog into our library claiming it was a service animal. The dog didn’t act like a service animal, and the woman allowed other patrons to pet the dog while she was there. (All the other service animals I’ve know the owners were very strict about working time, and home time).

        It was really frustrating. Especially as the woman tried to push the rules in multiple ways.

        1. fposte*

          Though that is for customer access to a space–for a workplace accommodation an employer is allowed to request further information.

    4. Web of Pies*

      Yeah I mean, it’s extremely easy to tell which animals are “I don’t want to pay for a plane ticket for my dog” -style ‘service’ animals, and which ones are legit service animals, just based on their behavior and the way the owner interacts with them. This HR person is dumb.

    5. Batgirl*

      I’ve just never understood how people get from “sometimes people are dishonest” to “everybody who claims X is dishonest”. I get quizzed all the time on “how real” my comparitively mild gluten intolerance is, because if it’s not instantly deathly then I’m making people disbelieve that it’s a real thing. No. People who instantly disbelieve others stated safety needs are jerks, have always been jerks and will always be jerks and have never needed encouragement to be jerks.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        Ah yes. I get this from time to time. People doubting that anyone who doesn’t have full-blown Celiac Disease or an outright allergy can have any sort of medical issues with gluten. It’s funny how quickly they change their tune the rare times I indulge in gluten and immediately display visible skin reactions.
        Do they care about all the OTHER symptoms that I can experience from eating gluten? The increase in anxiety, the worsened general allergy symptoms like runny nose/sneezing, etc., the stomach issues, and the terrible exhaustion. Nope! But as soon as a visible symptom pops up suddenly they take it more seriously.

    6. Software Eng*

      The idea that “well I’ve never heard of that kind of service dog so it’s fake “

      …did you try Google?! Because my first thought when somebody tells me something that sounds unfamiliar and novel and maybe a little suspicious is not to accuse somebody of forging paperwork but to just Google. I’ve argued with people plenty about weird things they’re telling me that I suspect are made up but at the point where I’m accusing them of forgery I would probably do some basic or actually major research first as that’sa really serious accusation

  59. Puppies!*

    Nothing to add, but can your dog get more than 1 bathroom break a day? I feel like all the smoke and coffee breaks people get, you should feel good to give your dog a few more breaks in the day too. Your new HR person is terrible and I hope this resolves quickly for you in a good way.

    1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      Adult dogs are fine with limited bathroom breaks during the day. It’s very normal for them to stay home while their human works so this dog is getting an extra one in the middle of the day.

    2. Generic Name*

      I’m not sure how this is relevant. My office is dog-friendly, and my pet dog accompanies me to work. Most days she gets 1 bathroom break while I walk her during lunchtime. Rarely she will ask to go out before or after our lunch walk, but not often. Dogs are fine “holding it” during the day.

    3. Hamburke*

      My dog only wants to go out once during the day. We both work at home plus have a kid who does online school so we’re home all the time. She gets a 10 minute walk in the morning and we take her for a longer walk mid-day. If she alerted us that she needed to go out at other times, of course we would take her but even on nice days where I take a break outside, she’ll come with me but generally will only sit on the patio. About 6:30, she wants to go outside to pee and again at 10:30 before she goes to bed.

  60. Michelle Smith*

    Alison is correct. Lawyer up. Immediately. They cannot be allowed to treat you this way. If you really won’t do it for yourself, think about the way that people who come after you will be treated. It’s time for them to learn that they cannot just discriminate against people with medical conditions just because they don’t understand them.

  61. OftenOblivious*

    She walks on a standard collar and leash though she does have a fabric vest that says SERVICE DOG in large letters so if someone does see her when she’s looking for assistance, it’s pretty obvious that they should follow her.

    On a side note, I now wonder if a service dog will ever call on me to do an important task like help their hoomin. If this happens, I hope I am found worthy. (Although seriously, I didn’t realize this was a possibility and now I know!).

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, if you ever see a service dog without a person, *follow them* because there’s a very good chance they’re trying to get help for their person.

    2. Rainy*

      Service dogs are trained to go get an adult if something happens to their handler, so if you see an anxious dog, vest or no, trying to take you somewhere, you should always go!

  62. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    Big yikes for the HR manager for not knowing that service dogs can act as alert dogs. Like, I don’t necessarily expect random people to know that, but if you’re in a position that deals with medical accommodations, I absolutely expect you to at least know they’re a thing.

    I hope you’re able to come to an understanding that will have you feeling comfortable at work again. I don’t have any advice other than what Alison has already said, but I am absolutely appalled at both your HR person and your CEO for not doing five seconds of research into this issue. Does HR just get carte blanche to do whatever they want because the CEO isn’t an HR expert?

    1. TiffIf*

      Big yikes for the HR manager for not knowing that service dogs can act as alert dogs. Like, I don’t necessarily expect random people to know that, but if you’re in a position that deals with medical accommodations, I absolutely expect you to at least know they’re a thing.

      I mean, even absent that, it takes TWO SECONDS to google “seizure alert dog” and come up with the epilepsy foundation page on the types of training and services these dogs can provide.

  63. LalaWoe*

    I agree with everything Allison proposed but with one extra petty step. OP, how often do your seizures occur? Because if they are frequent enough that there is a chance of it happening in the office then I would recommend that you take that 2-3 minute window to do whatever is necessary to protect your health first AND THEN send your boss and VP of HR an email that your dog alerted you to a upcoming seizure. And then allow them to see whatever consequences happen whether it be that you retreat into a seizure safe room or call your husband or call for medical attention. Have a seizure in the office for them to see, have them see the ambulance arrive, have them see you duck into a safe room. Follow up with an email what happened and ask why they think that your service dog is not a real service dog if it was able to alert you to an upcoming seizure. And if they are requiring a bigger service guide just because then would they be willing to pay as part of reasonable ADA accomodations since they are not allowing your little service dog?

    This is seriously outrageous because someone with a fake service dog would definitely not be able to provide as much justification and documentation as you.

    1. OP*

      I usually have one or two a month. Most of the time I’m working from home. In the past 2 years I’ve gone into the office maybe a dozen times.

      I should clarify – she has given me up to a 2-3 minute warning but she’s not perfect. Usually I get 30 seconds or so to lay my ass down so I don’t smack anything important when I fall, maybe press the alert button on my phone if I’m alone. But if I do have time I absolutely will because why not make them feel bad.

      1. animaniactoo*

        If you’re going to try this, I suggest having a draft ready to go in your e-mail so that you don’t have to think about what to write while you’re trying to get yourself safe.

        “FYI – (Good Girl) has alerted me that I am about to have a seizure, taking precautions now in my office.” or whatever makes sense.

  64. FisherCat*

    In addition to being totally out of touch with both laws and reasonable norms, this “too small” objection is just… bananacrackers? I don’t even get where it would be coming from or why others in the organization seem to think it is a normal issue?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      SMALL SERVICE DOGS SOUND SO MUCH MORE CONVENIENT IF YOU DON’T HAVE MOBILITY ISSUES WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM

      1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        Absolutely! I love my service dog, but as a 62 pound german shepherd she isn’t the most convenient for travel. Even if I’m driving somewhere rather than flying she takes up the whole backseat of my hatchback.

        My best friend has a service dog (miniature schnauzer) for her epilepsy and he is the PERFECT size for traveling the subway or flying with her as she goes about living her everyday life.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ll admit! I never thought of a miniature schnauzer for a service dog. But if I was introduced to one I would be delighted! There’s a lot of delightful things I don’t know, that doesn’t automatically make them suspicious.

          1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

            He truly is a delight! And does excellent work. Miniature schnauzers are also less likely to cause allergy responses because they have hair rather than fur (much like a poodle).

          1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

            That’s awesome (and the schnauzers in your photo look adorable)! I’ve met a few papillons and labs working as hearing service dogs, but not yet a miniature schnauzer.

            It’s truly amazing that the specific breed often has less to do with a working dog’s job assignment than the individual’s temperament (/sarcasm).

  65. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Have you ever had a seizure at work when a coworker is around? Could they or would they be able to state that the they have seen the dog help.

    Could you get a letter from your neurologist stating that this is a medical alert dog, not an emotional support dog?

    Do everything that alsion said.

  66. Eldritch Office Worker*

    If you need a gofundme to pay lawyer fees I will gladly donate as soon as my brain stops screaming

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — it’s very kind, but there are so many letters here where that could be helpful, I have no way to vet them, and I think it’s most helpful for the site to stick to advice. (I also don’t want to be in the position of having to pick and choose where we do or don’t do it, or potentially opening the site up to people who might hope to use it for that but fraudulently.)

        1. OP*

          Also there are grants and such to pay legal fees, not to mention free consultations. But you can definitely donate to a service dog organization if you feel so compelled! The Epilepsy foundation has links and everything so you can pick your organization.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Apologies Alison, I know this has come up before I just forgot in my rage blackout. That’s a lovely suggestion OP, thank you!

    1. MK*

      Same. OP, if you need help, please let Allison know because we will all line up to help you. With the fire of a thousand suns.

  67. Sadola*

    1. I’m so sorry, OP, for what you’re going through. I, too, am a service dog handler, and the profound ignorance of some people can be so infuriating. I am not American, so I won’t comment on any legal aspects, but I know the ADA is on your side.
    2. I think a lot of people have such a narrow idea of what service dogs *must* look like. I have a guide dog—the most commonly recognized service animal—and I still have people thinking she isn’t a *real* guide dog because she is small. She is a 38 lb black lab, and people assume she is a puppy/isn’t trained/is fake.
    3. Just a small note: seeing eye dogs is a common misnomer in the States. The generally accepted term is guide dog. There is a specific guide dog school called the Seeing Eye, and only their dogs are seeing eye dogs. It’s kind of like if you called every university graduate you ever met a *insert name of one specific school here* graduate.

    1. Rainy*

      There was a guide dog handler who went to my university when I was in grad school and sometimes rode the same bus I did, and his guide dog was a very petite black lab, who could whisk herself into the space under the front bus seats and not stick out at all. He said that her size was perfect for someone who commuted daily! :)

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yup there is a gal who is blind who for a while we must have had the same schedules as she would get on before me and we changed to the same bus. And she has a cute little black lab and it’s amazing the spaces he can fit into.

    2. Anon4This*

      “ There is a specific guide dog school called the Seeing Eye, and only their dogs are seeing eye dogs. ”

      TIL…

  68. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

    While I am as angry as the rest of the community, I’m not shocked by this letter. It’s a good week if I don’t get someone asking if I’m really blind because I’m able to read. OP, get yourself to a lawyer. This is not going to end well and you need all the documentation for when they push you out the door. Also, start job searching.

  69. Pvt public*

    Ditto to all the outrage.
    I also wanted to say thank you for educating me – I’m not sure it would have been obvious to me to follow a service dog who was getting my attention. I’ve never seen – but now think there should be -a PSA to general public educating us on how to respond to service dogs who cross our paths.

    1. OP*

      To be fair she wouldn’t really let you ignore her. She’s yappy as all get out and will just go find a person and get in their way/bark in their face until they follow her. She’s also part herding dog (she’s a poodle/border collie cross) so if you really ignore her she’ll herd you.

      But in general if you see a service dog without a person you should follow them. They don’t usually leave their handlers without good reason.

        1. quill*

          She’d invent a job if she didn’t have one.

          My grandparents had a collie mutt, and she decided her job was herding grandchildren.

          1. AnonEmu*

            Yeeeep. I grew up with Blue Heelers and then mum got a poodle, because we were older and didn’t need four legged nannies (which is why we had the heelers). The poodle appointed himself mum’s little guardian – he will “patrol” the house and he has a very deep “wuff” for such a small dog (he’s like 7kg, I’ve met housecats bigger than him) and he is so clever, just a different flavor of clever than the heelers we had before him.
            My sister adopted a heeler/lab mix recently and he’s hella goofy because he’s a puppy but I cannot wait to see how his personality turns out – at least they have a nice well-fenced yard for him with plenty of squirrels!

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I’m just imagining your little dog herding your VP of HR and CEO to you while you lay on the floor after a seizer! I wonder if THEN they would believe that she has a purpose.

        In all seriousness I hope that everything turns out ok and that the VP and CEO actually learn something

      2. Bibliovore*

        I wasn’t going to share a home story but here it is. I was walking my dog in a city park and I saw a dog I thought I knew run up (on a leash, no owner) I took the leash and the dog pulled me to the other side of the park- about 3 blocks to the woman who was sitting on the ground. I had no idea her dog was a service animal.
        She had been alerted that she was having a seizure. She had sat down. I found her after her seizure and was able to phone her partner from her cell.
        She told me what had happened though she was still a bit disrupted from the experience.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I have a friend who has a service dog (friend is 6’5”, so her dog is a Great Dane since one of his job is to support her if she has an episode and needs to get to safety), and this really is a thing that more people should know. I didn’t know it until I met her.

  70. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    This HR loon needs to take a long walk off a short pier into a fiery volcano hellmouth.
    This. Is. Insane.

  71. Elizabeth West*

    RAWR

    I am fed up with ableist ding-dongs who constantly undermine the ADA. I just want to feed them all to the Sarlaac.

    A lawyer is your best bet, OP. Not only can they advise you, but their presence might alert the company that their HR person is putting them at risk of potential lawsuits. Not that you would sue, but someone in the future might, particularly if this jerkbutt pushed them out because of their disability or otherwise mishandled the situation and caused them to lose their livelihood.

    Please send us an update when you can.

  72. Aggretsuko*