update: my VP of HR says my service dog is too small

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose VP of HR said her service dog was too small? Here’s the update.

I have an update for you, and it’s mostly positive.

My meeting with the employment lawyer went well. Like everyone agreed, this was a fairly cut and dry thing where my dog absolutely should be allowed. We started by going the friendly route – my lawyer provided the language for me to attempt to address this myself in a more “official” way. That went, predictably, nowhere. The VP of HR doubled down on her stance that I needed to have a real service dog or I could come to the office without my dog. As an aside, I do work from home most of the time and there is no formal requirement that any of us go into the office. Even before Covid I supported our national sales team and most of us were remote for a significant portion of our jobs. That being said, I do like to go in every once in a while. It’s less of an issue with the pandemic since we’ve halted almost all in-person activities but once we finally get things under control for real we do have team outings that I’d like to attend, plus it’s nice to get actual face time with my boss. Anyway, I let my direct supervisor know that HR was continuing to push back on this and she (my boss) attempted to plead my case, thinking if it came from a director level employee maybe it would hold more weight. HR shut that down as well since “sales directors don’t understand the ADA like HR does”. My boss then told me if I didn’t already have plans to take a more aggressive approach with my lawyer she would be doing it on my behalf because this was getting ridiculous.

My lawyer sent a letter to my boss, HR, and the CEO asking for a response in 48 hours before they push further. Nobody responded (my boss deliberately did not respond, HR and the CEO ignored it? didn’t notice it? The world will never know). We then pushed the letter to the company’s Board and things happened very quickly from there although I’m unfortunately out of the loop on the details. What I do know is the CEO claimed he misunderstood what I was saying when I asked him and of course he supported me and my dog coming into the office. It wasn’t a misunderstanding, it was definitely incompetence, but that’s fine, I’m not going to fight that battle. HR quietly underwent a restructuring. Our VP “left for other opportunities” last week with no other comment. We’re pretty sure she was pushed out. Although we are a smaller company we do hold a sizeable government contract and an ADA lawsuit would go against the main service we provide. Our board was very interested in making sure we didn’t do anything to jeopardize that contract. I do wish the board and CEO had taken a firmer stance and admitted to the error while publicly committing to making sure any and all employees felt welcome but they did reach out and apologize to me personally so I’ll let that go too.

All in all our terrible HR is gone, my boss was as supportive as she could be and went to bat for me several times, and once the office is fully open my dog and I will be able to go to the office as needed. Josie, the dog in question, received lots of pets and loving at the request of the commenters and continues to be a Very Good Girl. Dilbert, the pit mix mentioned a couple of times in the comments, is disappointed he didn’t get to show his complete lack of service skill, but he’s happy to stay home and continue to eat everything regardless of if it is actually food or not. I cannot thank you and the commenters enough. Not only was your advice spot-on but the support meant a lot for me and gave me the push I needed to stand up for myself.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      To me, this is more satisfying than the immediately previous cheap ass rolls update.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Agreed. While that one has the shock factor, this one is just nourishing to the soul. Way to go, OP! Glad you and Josie won out in the end against your clueless (and damaging) HR.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Nourishing to the soul is an excellent way to put it, me and my warmed up heart agree and think this is what the world needed today.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I am very happy for you, OP! And give your doggies some lovin’ from the AAM Commentariat.

      My doggie is also interested in eating everything, food or not.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        My dog’s theory is that the only way to distinguish food from non-food is to eat it anyway and then see how things go!

        1. Kuododi*

          Oh geeze, my mini Daschund operates on the same philosophy regarding food. He figures if it’s non-food or people food, he will opt for “forgiveness rather than permission.”.
          I was working on some bead projects a couple of days ago when I accidentally spilled a container of blue seed beads. Of course DH and I swept and vacuumed as much as possible. (You know where this is going!) A little later, doggo hopped up in my lap and proceeded to spit seed beads all over my lap, the floor etc. I didn’t know whether to kiss him or put him in time out.


          1. Sis Boom Bah*

            Oh no. My kid did that once, too. I’m glad for both our sakes that everything turned out ok.

          2. Dezzi*

            One of my cats detached and swallowed the bell from a cat toy. I kept joking that we should shake him to see if his belly jingled or whether we’d just hear his one lonely brain cell rattling around in his head, lol

          3. Lissajous*

            Ditto my cat, who loves to chew, with a special focus on anything string shaped (see also: shoe laces, blind cords, skinny electrical cables especially Apple charging cables – the softer rubber they use in combination with the wire inside is just *chef kiss* al dente perfection, apparently. RIP three laptop chargers and several phone cords so far.)

            He will also just settle down and chew toy mice, after murdering them most thoroughly first. Eats the poly filler if I don’t spot the change in play mode fast enough.

            Fortunately so far his gut has a higher wisdom stat than he does and will reject if required. The trouble is any consequence is sufficiently delayed from the action that it is clearly completely unrelated and there are no lessons that could possibly be learnt here!

            (Water in the bath when the tap has been running however – that one he learnt after one flying leap without checking first, and has remembered ever since.)

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Just yesterday, our weird cat horked up a rubberized bit of cable casing, a few needles from the holiday greenery we recently received, and the corner of a Starburst wrapper. We pick up quite carefully since we figured out he was part goat (and are painfully aware of how expensive the emergency vet is), yet he still finds random things to eat and then puke back up.

              1. Dezzi*

                Knowing that other cat people go through this makes me feel SO much better!

                (Quick unsolicited advice: sounds like your cat has pica. If it’s at the point where he’s having to go to the emergency vet, you may want to ask your vet about trying medication–fluoxetine is extremely well-tolerated in cats and has almost entirely eliminated Sebatian’s plastic eating habit!)

            2. Candi*

              Something I found that helped with my nom-nom cat: fiber wrapped cables. He hates the texture of the nylon. One taste and he noped out.

              I still have to keep plastic out of his reach. Luckily his stomach is smarter than his brain.

            3. TardyTardis*

              I had a cat who was a Mighty Huntress (still miss her). She killed a mouse her first day in the house. My computer mouse (I went wireless for the years she shared with us).

          4. Salymander*

            Sounds like the dog I had as a child. She ate all the underwear and socks she could find, as well as small toys and craft supplies. My little vial of googly eyes disappeared and I found them in the dog’s favorite pooping spot in the backyard. I did not attempt to use them for crafts after that, and I get a little creeped out by googly eyes to this day. I mean, you never know where those things have been!

            The dog would refuse to eat any actual food except one brand of dry dog food and the occasional scrap of meat. All other food was carried around and played with until it started to decay, then left on my bed as a delightful present. I woke up one morning with a week old pancake sitting on my chest. I guess she thought I wanted breakfast in bed.

            1. Mannequin*

              My dog chews up everything, and though I try really hard to keep things out of his reach, I still find bizarre things in his poop.

              The one that made me laugh the most was when I scooped it up, it cracked in half, and it was nothing but a log of undigested birdseed- he’d gotten into the stash for our roommates parakeet.

        2. Dezzi*

          My cat also subscribes to this theory! His current favorite thing to eat is dead leaves that people track in from outside…

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          This is similar to my cat’s theory. No matter that last time he tried eating all the houseplants he ended up with cyclic vomiting due to “dietary indiscretion” (official vet’s diagnosis) – maybe THIS time it will be different!

          He also seems to be on a mission to try every species of bug, with a special focus on bees. I dread the day he finally catches one.

            1. BubbleTea*

              My dog once got a Jumbo Spicy Sky Raisin cornered and in my attempt to prevent him eating it, I got myself stung. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            As a child my parents had a lab mix that was a very successful bee and hornet hunter. He got stung in the mouth more than once, but we never could convince him to stop. I guess they were tasty snacks to him.

            1. La Triviata*

              We once had a cat that thought she was a great hunter. The very first thing she caught, as a kitten, was a bee. She became an indoor-only cat. Later on, my mother’s house would have an influx of crickets. Those, she could catch. She’d catch them, eat them and then throw them up on the rug (always the rug, not the kitchen or bathroom tile). Nothing like a small puddle of kitty vomit with legs sticking out of it.

              1. CalypsoSummer*

                I lived in a place where Very Large Crickets would appear in the summer, and then get inside somehow, and the cats loved them. A tasty snack!

                I was all in favor of the cats catching (and, sure, eating) the pesky things, but they’d spit out the hard spiny back legs, which meant that III would invariably step on them with my bare feet on. Not fun!

            2. bookworm*

              Our lab mix also loves to chase bees, but has miraculously only been stung once, which was the time (we assume, for reasons that will shortly become obvious) a bee flew INTO his crate while we were out running errands. We came home to a very puffy and confused puppy and then, since we didn’t actually see what happened, we spent several hours waiting in the car outside the emergency vet waiting to be triaged. When we were still waiting outside as the swelling started going down, we got the OK to avoid paying $$$ to be told for the second time that month that our dog is goofy and accident prone but also apparently made of rubber and a cast iron stomach, and just went to the local pharmacy for benadryl. Ah, the joys of dog ownership. Don’t get me started on the time he ate a half bag of candy corn and we paid a vet $300 to tell us he was completely fine.

            3. Userper Cranberries*

              I used to babysit my neighbor’s lab who did the exact same thing – she never stopped eating bees no matter how much she swelled up!

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                The thing that our beloved Doc (that vet was an amazing guy) never understood was that Eernie never swelled except right at the sting. He spent the better part of 8 goofy years lurking in the azaleas and eating bees, with nary an adverse side effect. And also fortunately, he never brought “pieces” inside either.

                He was also a master night bug hunter as well. His favorites seemed to be moths and mosquito hawks (they are a Deep South swampy bug, which fortunately given their size don’t bite).

          2. Lizzo*

            @Ace: My Broadway-obsessed, tangent-loving brain is now envisioning your cat performing “Maybe this Time” from Cabaret…with lyrics adjusted for dietary indiscretion, obviously.

        4. Anonny*

          The Darling Monster Who Lives In Our Home also subscribes to this theory, but fortunately only for organic matter. Like fox poop. That is a delicacy worth jumping fences for, apparently.

      2. jiggle mouse*

        My dog ate her way into an emergency spa weekend this summer, complete with $4500 ‘tummy tuck’. Kale roots pillaged from the garden, rocks, and a piece of cow hoof. Yay.

    3. DANGER: Gumption & Cheap Ass Rolls Ahead*

      Only thing this update is missing is dog pics (HINT, HINT, HINT)

    4. Minerva*

      Yay! Glad that once a lawyer got involved things moved quickly.

      Still wondering if that HR VP was just truly incompetent or just thought they were pushing back against an “emotional support” animal. In the end it doesn’t matter though.

      1. pancakes*

        That would just be a slight variation of the same basic incompetence. Their personal feelings about emotional support animals shouldn’t come in to play when reviewing the letter writer’s documentation for their service dog.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Some people are just convinced they have spotted a faker – and they’re super self important about “exposing the fraud” even though generally they have found nothing of the sort.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. Some people are unfortunately willing to claim that their beloved pet is a support animal when it’s nothing of the sort, just to be able to take their dog to the store, etc. This has the unfortunate consequence that some people are less willing to accept the need for emotional support animals as legitimate, whereas they’d instantly accept that a blind person may need a guide dog, a person in a wheelchair may need a service dog, or someone with diabetes or epilepsy may benefit from a service dog to help them manage their illness.

          To be clear, I can understand the thinking of those who want to “expose the fraud”, while I’m very happy that the LW finally got the approval for their much needed support animal.

          1. Candi*

            The problem I’ve seen with most “I’ve found a fake!” false accusers is they’re usually not doing it due to a genuine desire to prevent exploitation of systems set up to assist and accommodate people who are disabled. They’re doing it out of a feeling of self-righteousness and superiority. Since telling them they are wrong, or even proving it, “attacks” those feelings, they will not accept that they’re wrong.

            And when you get someone like that in a position of power, like OP’s ex-HR VP, you get, well, we all saw. I’m glad OP had the bandwidth to push back -so many are so tired, due to their conditions, they don’t have the spoons to take on such a person.

      3. Just Jess*

        It has to be that the VP of HR was incompetent enough to believe they were pushing back against an “emotional support” animal. I read the whole story with the understanding that there are times when the reasonable accommodation process needs to be documented and standardized AND there are times when the person in charge of that process is totally unqualified to do it. I’m so glad the VP of HR is gone and that LW got through a bumpy situation.

    5. kittymommy*

      My only disappointment is we don’t have a pic of the Very Good Girl and the Sweet Pittie Mix baby.

    6. Blue*

      Yes! It’s annoying that it required so much effort on the LW’s part, but I’m really glad that it got resolved (with the VP gone!) in a positive way.

      1. Candi*

        VP gone means that other people at the organization who need accommodations won’t be unreasonably questioned or denied based on what the VP thinks handicapped looks like. I call that a major win.

        I don’t know about the CEO, but I bet her references with the Board are completely tanked.

  1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    A really satisfying update. I am so glad for you OP that everything resolved in your favor and the terrible HR person has left the building.

  2. YL*

    LW, I’m so happy for you.

    And I’m happy you didn’t have to use my ADA-compliant miniature pony route.

    1. Ro*

      I didn’t realize service minature pony was an actual thing and thought you were joking. I was imagining more and more ridicolous service animals.

      “This? This is my service elephant. VP said my dog was too small.”

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        Thank you for causing me to ACTUALLY Laugh Out Loud!!

        I would really like a service unicorn, but if I can’t find one, then I’ll settle for a service dolphin. Because of the dolphin’s physical needs, I would have to work on a small boat in the ocean and I think I would do very well out there. I’m sure I can use my phone to create a mobile hotspot so I can connect to the company server.

  3. I'm that guy*

    You win congratulations. It could not have gone much better.

    Hopefully your former HR VP reflects on her actions and does better if/when she gets her next job.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Sadly, given that she doubled down and ignored a letter from an employment lawyer, my hopes are not very high.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’m sure HR Loon is recreating the whole narrative in some way that “blames the government pressure to give in” v. “being proud that the government has laws to protect people.”
        And yeah, boss can back pedal his steamboat from NOLA to the Northwest Territory, he’s on the Board’s radar now. Oh well.

        1. Candi*

          I think you mean the CEO, not OP’s immediate boss? And yeah, “indifference and incompetence” vs “malice and intent” doesn’t really matter when it can get the company in a hotbed of trouble.

          “back pedal his steamboat from NOLA to the Northwest Territory” is a glorious turn of phrase. I’m glad NOLA came up in a story I read recently so I can truly appreciate the deliciousness. (The story was the first I’d heard of “NOLA”, so I searched it.)

      2. IndoorKitty*

        I’m wondering if she ignored the letter from the employment lawyer because, “you can print papers like that off the internet”? I’m also sad that LW can’t pay the puppy tax here because you can’t upload pictures.

        1. Just Jess*

          This is pretty funny because it’s incredibly ridiculous, yet there’s still a chance that that’s exactly what happened.

      3. Anonymous pineapple*

        Judging from how she previously dismissed OPs documents, she probably decided the employment lawyer was OPs friend impersonating one or something along those lines.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Who knows – they definitely seemed to have decided that OP was a problem to be managed out. Really happy it worked the other way.

      1. I'm that guy*

        I screwed up an online order and a very nice customer service rep solved my problem in 2 minutes so I am in a hopeful mood today.

        Note to self: don’t order stereo equipment at 12:30 AM.

  4. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

    I’m just so glad OP got a happy ending and the HR person left. Yay OP, good boss and the doggos!

  5. Goose*

    I can’t believe we found the mirror verse/evil twin version of “go get your dog.” OP, I’m sorry it had to come to this but I’m so glad it worked out!!

    1. Kali*

      I love this comment/reference.

      And yay, OP! I’m so glad things worked out for the best. Although, I personally would have been thrilled to see your pit mix raising hell at the office (my dingleberry pibble says hello).

  6. WoodswomanWrites*

    I’m so glad to read about this outcome. It still makes my blood boil that people in positions of authority ignored the very clear requirements of the ADA and your own explanation and pushed for a “real” service dog as if yours isn’t.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Well you know ONLY HR understands the ADA. Clearly the rest of us have no freaking clue.

      That comment made my eyebrows go up so far, I may need them surgically removed from the back of my head. HR in this case had no clue about the ADA. because i am pretty sure it does not mention anywhere that service dogs must be of a certain size.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I really really really hope that HR person is no longer working in HR because how she reacted in this situation alone shows that she doesn’t understand HR nearly as well as she thinks she does. Dunning-Krueger, anyone?

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I of course meant she doesn’t understand the ADA as well as she thinks she does, but I think my comment is also true.

            1. Candi*

              HR’s first role is to protect the company.

              Putting up a big neon sign inviting an ADA-sourced crackdown and threatening their government contract is the very opposite of protecting.

              So, no, she doesn’t understand HR very well.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Have we discussed the fact that hot coffee expelled at a high rate of velocity through the nasal cavity hurts?

          It does!

  7. animaniactoo*

    I am so happy that this was resolved so quickly! And effectively (meaning that somebody who didn’t know their rear from their elbow about ADA accommodations and was putting the company in jeopardy was shown the door, you get to bring in your dog, everything is good there, and you know your CEO is a weasel – which isn’t great, but is great info to HAVE for any future interactions.).

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – OP knows their immediate supervisor is great and that the CEO is a weasel. Both of those are valuable pieces of information to have. OP can use that knowledge about the CEO accordingly while reading any and all future communications from them.

  8. The Smiling Pug*

    This is one of the stories that I wanted to hear the update for. I’m glad to hear that the horrible HR person has left that company. Please pet your dogs for me. :)

    1. Bug*

      Me too…so happy it’s been resolved so quickly and satisfactorily. I consider this my gift from AAM. Thank you!

  9. Ashley*

    I can’t believe it had to be escalated to that point. Wow. Glad you finally got that accommodation you needed.

    1. Lucious*

      >> I can’t believe it escalated to that point.

      I can.
      If senior leadership is ton Planet Tone Deaf, you have to play the revenue card to get movement. Once the BoD got involved & the largest revenue stream was at risk, the problem was solved PDQ.

    2. DANGER: Gumption & Cheap Ass Rolls Ahead*

      Seriously. It never should have gone as far as it did and I’m annoyed that the OP had to get a lawyer in the first place. The blowing off of the lawyer’s letter took either epic levels of incompetence or epic levels of arrogance. Luckily everything ended well, but I’m still irked

        1. allathian*

          Mmm. I’d hate for employees to be liable for errors they make at work with their personal finances. This HR person needed better supervision and training. I hope that the company will provide this to avoid anything similar happening again.

          1. pancakes*

            I agree about personal liability, but A VP of HR really shouldn’t need much supervision on handling a bog-standard ADA request. This wasn’t even a request for accommodation – from the first letter, it was clear that a previous HR had handled that, the VP was a new hire, and all of the letter writer’s supporting documentation was in place. All this VP had to do was not become a weird pest about it.

            1. Candi*

              And this workplace doesn’t sound like a tiny NPO or business where no one has any real training on a bunch of important worker issues, and HR’s qualification is “They read a book once.” This is a place that sounds pretty large and established, the type that makes sure to try and hire qualified people if only to have the right qualifications for things like that government contract. That means established procedures for things like ADA accommodation.

              It comes across like the VP was flouting her new company’s policies because of her hangup of what disabled “should’ look like. It’s so odd in context.

    3. Mockingjay*

      The worst part is that the LW already had permission for Josie; Incompetent HR VP decided to rescind it all on her own. (Why, we’ll never know.)

      I’m glad you got it straightened out but am infuriated that it took a lawyer to fix things.

      But onto happy dog pets and comfort! My Reese sends greetings! Woof!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – so original HR understood the ADA, immediate boss either already understood the ADA or they did research so they could understand the ADA. CEO and new HR VP were out to lunch and talking out the wrong part of their anatomy. Sounds like CEO could be be educated (at least with result to nope, you can’t do that because money reasons) but that the HR idiot was a complete idiot.

      2. Just Jess*

        I think my reading comprehension must be taking a hit. I can’t find any statement in the original letter or updates that says the LW had an HR-approved, official reasonable accommodation for the service animal that was overturned by the incompetent VP of HR. The story sits in my head as “new HR person, new HR policy, HR person doesn’t actually know what the heck they are doing (and is cruel and closed-minded).”

        I definitely read it as this was the first time LW had been asked to bring in documentation, or else the VP of HR would have just looked at documentation already in the employee file and been a jerk about that. I’m late to the party, but would appreciate if anyone could clarify exactly what type of evil and/or incompetence was involved.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      I can absolutely believe it went this far and I’m furious for LW that it did, but at least it (finally) had a good resolution.

  10. CatPerson*

    ““sales directors don’t understand the ADA like HR does”

    So happy this worked out. Your letter infuriated me.

    Now, can we have a picture of Josie??

    1. Paris Geller*

      I snorted when I got to that line. There’s definitely a lack of understanding about ADA going on, but it’s not from the sales directors. The idea that this HR person thinks she has even the faintest wisp of understanding of ADA law is preposterous.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yeah, that was an “I think you have that backwards in this particular situation, with all due respect…”

        1. Elenna*

          Ah, yes, with all due respect. Which is none. Incompetent HR Person is not, in fact, due any respect.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        HR Person proved that she knows nothing about ADA law. Maybe she could pursue new opportunities in actually learning about it.

    2. Observer*

      Yeah, I actually snorted when I read that line.

      Like, yes, that’s true. But that’s a GOOD thing, because HR is out of whatever mind they have.

    3. Double A*

      You know…that part of the ADA that says you need to allow service dogs, unless they’re small in which case how are they even service dogs?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I’m imagining that clause being scrawled on the company’s copy of the ADA in crayon and messy handwriting…

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Given that occasionally the fax cover pages I receive from professional offices look like the record clerk let their three year old fill them out……sounds accurate.

    4. A CAD Monkey*

      I probably know more about ADA than that HR person. of course my knowledge is limited to the practical application of the guidelines to commercial office/retail environments, so … yeah not saying much

      1. Candi*

        Anyone who’s read AAM for more than a week probably knows more. And more importantly, are willing to admit what they don’t know and research it.

    5. SMH*

      And HR does not understand ADA like employment lawyers! I would frame this and hang it in my office if I were OP.

    6. Skeeder Jones*

      I really wish a hidden camera caught her reaction when she learned that, in fact, she did not understand ADA and had her Vitamin ADA Deficiency officially diagnosed.

  11. Keyboard Cowboy*

    I’m happy for you and all, but the sleeper here is Dilbert living his best life experiencing the world orally. Give Dilbert a butt scritch from us ;)

  12. Her Blondeness*

    Did anyone else have a flash to The Wizard of Oz and the evil witch: “And your little dog, too!”

    Nevertheless, OP, glad they pushed out the HR person. What a loon that obviously *does not* know diddly about ADA. I mean, how hard is it to look something up in this day and age if you are unsure or need specific details?

  13. BA*

    I let out an audible “YESSSSSSS!” when I saw the headline. This is such a great update. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but I am really happy your manager was there to fight alongside you.

  14. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Josie and Dilbert for president.

    I know the legal system is often convoluted, expensive, and a terrible barrier to a lot of people, but I’m really glad you found and used a lawyer.

  15. Shiba Dad*

    Congrats OP. I’m sorry, but not surprised, this went as far as it did.

    Give the doggos pats from me.

  16. Bookworm*

    Although I am sorry the CEO and board wasn’t firmer in the response as you would have liked, I’m glad that overall it’s mostly positive as you write. Glad the problem left, willingly or not. Thanks for the update, OP!!

  17. KimberlyR*

    I hate that you had to do all this but I really hope everyone at your company (minus the terrible HR person who isn’t at your company anymore anyway) realizes how freaking stupid this was and how quickly they need to respond to ADA issues in the future. “Too small of a service dog” is the most ridiculous non-problem I’ve ever heard of. Yay for that lawyer and for your good boss!

  18. JSPA*

    Part of why this feels to good is that, in this labor market, I feel absolutely sure that the person who’s an absolute travesty as HR can no doubt find some other way to not lose their housing or other essentials…while getting a huge wake-up call that might (?) make them a better person…or if not, then they should still be able to find a new line of business more in line with their attitude.

    1. JSPA*

      (I still fear they will land on their feet high up in someone else’s HR, though, with attitude unchanged. If you’re hiring for HR, do ask questions that will root out people with this sort of attitude!)

      1. DJ*

        This makes me ask: how do you do interviews for HR? Like how would you root out those issues via an interview? A service dog is fairly specialized and uncommon enough that this HR person could never come into contact with one again (at least in a work setting). I’m sure there were other red flags but how does one recognize those during an interview?

        Sorry, this might seem basic buy I’m in the sciences so a lot of interviews are quite technical.

        1. OhNo*

          I dunno if you can suss it out specifically unless you ask some pretty probing questions, but a good baseline question might be the old “Tell us about a time when…” option. E.g.: tell us about a time when you worked with an employee to develop accommodations for a disability, tell us about a time when you had to weight competing accommodations and how you handled it, tell us about a time when you received negative feedback from an employee you worked with and how you handled it, etc.

        2. Catwhisperer*

          While they might not be able to screen for this exact scenario, they could definitely ask knowledge based questions covering the specialized info someone would need to know to fulfill ADA accommodations. For example:

          – Tell us a time that you were presented with an ADA request. How did you handle it? What steps did you take to ensure the law was followed without undue burden on the company? (ADA specifies that companies don’t need to fulfill requests that put an undue burden on them but also require that they engage in a collaborative process to find a solution.)
          – If you had to create a formalized ADA request process for the company, what would it look like? What would you take into consideration when creating the process?

          Or, if they wanted to screen out people with this sort of know-it-all attitude, they could ask things like:

          – Tell us a time you discovered that you were wrong about the interpretation of employment law or company policy. How did you handle it? What steps did you take to determine who was correct, you or the person who said you were in error?

  19. TiredMama*

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the update, OP! I hate that you had to hire a lawyer to assist (I hope it did not cost much and really the forkin company should reimburse you if you did because this was totally on them).

    1. Rosemary*

      I was coming here to say the same thing. Even if the lawyer cost $20, the company should be reimbursing her. Because it never ever should have even gotten to that point.

  20. PollyQ*

    How does someone rise to the level of HR VP when they’re so bad at their job they’re actually causing the problem they’re supposed to avoid? It’s like if someone on a factory line were smashing widgets instead of building them. I hope the “opportunities” she’s pursuing either include a heap of self-reflection and re-training or maybe just changing to a different career. Mind-boggling.

    1. Candi*

      It might have to do with where she was working before allowing such behavior, out of ignorance or not caring.

      I was working part-time several years ago at a small business. Not HR, but the receptionist/office manager at was okay at their job, and had a fairly wide array of power and purchasing responsibility. But their domineering and nosy attitude put off everyone but the owner, who constantly made excuses for them and let them get away with a ton of stuff.

      One day (this is secondhand), she apparently had a snitfit at the owner actually taking her to task over something to do with a client. So she went and got another job, at a large company. Owner gave her a great reference.

      Three months later, she was asking for her old job back. Again secondhand, she apparently told the office that the new job was too demanding and had too many rules, and was “mean”.

      Now wait for it…

      The owner had sold the company. The staff were being transferred to the new company or finding other jobs. There was no place for her.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m glad that it turned out reasonably well, and that we have a rare example in which “… Wait, this actually is illegal, you need a lawyer” was the right call and followed through on.

    Also, of course, I am glad that Dilbert continues to experiment with what might be food.

  22. RJ*

    OP, this is just the happy update I needed in my bummer of a week. Congratulations to you and Josie and I send you all the best for a great working environment sans the VP who ‘left’.

  23. Robin Ellacott*

    Excellent! All is (eventually) well with the world… though the CEO isn’t coming out of this covered in glory.

  24. Random Bystander*

    So glad that, in the end, the correct conclusions were reached (including the former VP-HR who didn’t know beans about the job or ADA left for more appropriate “opportunities”).

  25. Don*

    I want to have a job and life like these clowns do where I have no existing drama or obligations so I have to make up shit like “too small to be a service dog” to have something to do.

    I have joked that my career has largely been my asking “what problem are we looking to solve here?” and apparently I need to up my output.

  26. A Simple Narwhal*

    What a lovely update! I’m going to give my dog extra pets and scritches today, for she is also a Very Good Girl.

  27. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    LW, would you be willing to tell us how much you had to pay for your lawyer’s services? I completely understand if you don’t want to, but I am curious how much it cost you to get everything sorted out.

    1. TiffIf*

      I was wondering if there was a way to force the company to pay the legal fees in the absence of any apparent legal settlement or something. It would be most unfair for the OP to have to foot the bill for a lawyer because the company was wrong.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      I was wondering this same thing. It seems like the company should have had to pay for her lawyer’s time, since they were 100% in the wrong.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It would certainly not be amiss for the board to offer to reimburse OP for the legal fees!

      1. Shenandoah*

        I hope you get reimbursed, OP, but it also sounds like money well spent. Genuinely fantastic that the lawyer was able to fix this for a 3 digit sum.

  28. Persephone Mongoose*

    Awesome update, OP! I’m impressed with how quickly everything was able to get rolling and eventually resolved.

  29. Observer*

    Great update!

    I just looked at the comments on the original letter and saw that someone said that they bet that the excuse that HR and CEO give is that it was a “misunderstanding”. Well, it looks like the CEO had the brains to use that excuse, while VP of HR apparently didn’t. No loss.

    In fact, I’m glad she got pushed out.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Oh, I dunno. She might have used “There was a misunderstanding” and had the CEO or the Board tell her “Yes, I/we misunderstood that you actually knew wtf you were talking about.”

      1. Rosemary*

        Yep. Even if it was a “misunderstanding” … it should still be a fireable offense for someone whose JOB it is to be well and accurately versed in these kinds of things. I would (maybe) be more forgiving had it been OP’s (non-HR) manager who gave her trouble/had not understood the law… but for HR to not have a clue is unacceptable.

      2. Ama*

        I would actually be willing to bet that the CEO did hide behind “I’m supposed to be able to rely on HR to guide me in these matters” when the Board asked for an explanation of how this got to the point of an employee lawyering up.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreeing with the thought that the CEO hid behind “misunderstanding” excuse and I was depending on HR to correctly advise me on legal matters.

          Yeah – CEO is a weasel, but now that’s been exposed.

        2. ron the anon amazon*

          I’d also guess that the company has no in-house counsel or decent attorney on retainer. Any competent attorney would have recognized that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

          Given that the HR person was shown the door, I’m hoping this also means that the board is watching the CEO much more closely.

      3. HolidayAmoeba*

        It’s going to be really hard to play telling an employee their service dog isn’t big enough as a misunderstanding. Especially factoring in that 1. The employee got prior approval 2. The employee can clearly explain the role the dog serves and its not vague 3. No one has had any problem with the dogs behavior since its behaving like idk a well trained service dog.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, the LW has learned that the CEO is a lying weasel. This is very useful information, not for anything specific but just good to know down the road.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      It is frustrating, though, that she was probably allowed to save face and leave voluntarily instead of being terminated. And if she reported directly to the CEO, he’d be the one who would give her a reference at future jobs, and he’s ALSO refused to admit his mistake, so… my guess is that she’ll land another job without too much hassle, and be some other PWD’s problem.

  30. Funfetti*

    Fantastic update! Sorry your CEO is still on the lame side, but your board apparently knows what is up. This is great!

  31. Old Admin*

    When I saw the title, I let out a throaty “Yass. Yaaaaaasssssss” (I’m a lady, usually), then snortchucklelaughed. After reading the update, I nearly cried with joy.

    I very much hope you could afford the lawyer after spending so much for your freedom of movement (as in your dog’s training)!

  32. JustAClarifier*

    I was so hoping to get an update on this one. OP, I’m so glad to hear that you were able to take the action that you needed and I’m proud that you stood up for yourself and your needs despite unwarranted and idiotic bigotry against tiny service dogs from someone who seems like they were just on a power trip.

  33. Danniella Bee*

    I am so glad this whole situation was resolved and that HR VP was pushed out! I am currently getting my Master of Science in HR and this letter sent chills down my spine.

  34. Akcipitrokulo*

    Excellent. Frustrating it had to go so far to get fixed, but excellent result.

    (Oh to be a fly on the wall when board read lawyer’s letter…)

  35. Llellayena*

    I think the only sad thing about this update is that I JUST voted for this company in the “worst of the year” polls…can I revise my vote since they fixed themselves in the same year?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I voted for them as well – my philosophy is that I’m voting for the situation in the original letter, irregardless of any updates.

    2. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Consider that that one was ‘worst boss’ (or as the case may be, worst CEO and HR, since direct supervisor was always mentioned as not the problem,) rather than company, the CEO clearly didn’t get the memo even when they got a ‘you have 48 hours to respond’ letter and has proceeded to cover his own behind rather than own up to being wrong, and the HR VP continued to insist she knew better than anyone else what the ADA stated despite clear evidence to the contrary, and had to be fired once it was clear she didn’t understand a key part of her job and was breaking federal law. So the company as a whole is not problematic, but the bad actors didn’t actually change their ways, one just managed to give a decent enough excuse to stay employed for now. Hope the board makes him actually read up on service dog training and costs. Doubt it, but I hope.

  36. Madeleine Matilda*

    I didn’t think Alison could top the earlier update on the cheap ass roles, but this one is spectacular. I’m so glad that your board took action to resolve this, although I do wish you hadn’t had to go to the point of hiring a lawyer and that your employer had reimbursed your lawyer fees. All the best to you and your dogs!

  37. Fed-o*

    First of all, this is very gratifying and also maddening. Good for you for pushing and standing up for yourself!

    Second of all, as the owner of a dog whose most recent obstruction was…a pair of not-small underwear, I hear you.

  38. Philly Redhead*

    Glad to hear this update! I also wish there had been more responsibility taken (ie, the CEO’s “misunderstanding”), but I’m glad it’s an overall positive update.

    Also, “Dilbert, the pit mix mentioned a couple of times in the comments, is disappointed he didn’t get to show his complete lack of service skill, but he’s happy to stay home and continue to eat everything regardless of if it is actually food or not.” made me laugh so hard because that also describes my pit mix!

  39. Elenna*

    Glad things worked out in the end, even if it really shouldn’t have taken that much effort (or any effort at all, really, since this should never have happened in the first place). And please give your Very Good Boys some pets from me!

  40. EmKay*

    OP, your CEO is a weasel who will throw others under the bus to save his sorry skin without a second thought.

    Please be sure to remember that.

    1. QKL*

      Yep, and we all can read between the lines, CEO likely blamed VP for the misunderstanding. A few big bosses I’ve worked for always kept a super toxic second-in-command around so they could funnel their less popular ideas through toxic jerk and still appear to be a buddy boss. The toxic jerk would only disappear when a command went too far and would quickly be replaced by another toxic jerk. I wouldn’t be surprised if the CEO put OPs service dog on the list of “problems VP needed to solve”.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      Thank you, I thought the same thing. Everything the HR did was with his blessing and the buck is supposed to stop with him.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Strongly agree. Probably don’t want to end up being promoted to directly support this CEO, because it’s only a matter of time before you get to impersonate a human-shaped speed bump for the bus full of consequences headed his way.

  41. Regina Phalange*

    Yay for a great outcome, boo for your VP still being an absolute tool. I hope they never work in HR again.

    Also…pics of Josie and Dilbert pleeeease??

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Probably a little too outing for OP, but I was also disappointed the link in the update wasn’t a photo.

  42. banoffee pie*

    Really glad that got sorted! I was worrying about that one, thinking OP might have to go and get a new dog and lose their canine friend.

  43. zolk*

    I wish the CEO had faced more serious repercussions but overall this is a great outcome and I’m so happy for OP and their dogs getting the ADA accommodations they deserve. :)

  44. HolidayAmoeba*

    How do people with this sheer lack of knowledge and awareness end up in Senior positions like this? HR is supposed to make sure the company is following the law, not open them up to lawsuits due to sheer ignorance.

  45. EmmaPoet*

    Personally I was hoping the LW would find a little seat and have Josie ride Dilbert into the office like he’s an elephant and she’s in a howdah, but this is probably a better update for the LW. Still, if you could manage that, send us a picture!

    Also, please tell Josie she is a Very Good Girl and I send pets. And Dilbert is a Very Sweet Boy and I send more pets.

  46. Elizabeth West*


    I’d say your boss deserves pets too, but that would be weird, lol. Seriously though, I’m glad she was in your corner!

  47. learnedthehardway*

    I’m so glad that your company’s board did the right thing here. Also, I’m betting that you’re not the only person who is happy the VP HR is gone – someone that misinformed and that persistent about disability accommodations was probably incompetent in other, less legally pursuable ways, as well.

  48. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    It’s a shame that it takes spending $$ on a lawyer to get the CEO & board to realize that you had a bad HR person.

    Otherwise, alls well that ends well I guess.

  49. Bernice Clifton*

    To me, it’s not even so much that the HR person didn’t understand ADA compliance laws. I’m not a VP but if I com across something that doesn’t seem legit, I actually *look into it* so I don’t put my foot it in it if I am wrong. All she had to do was call the org that trained the dog and ask about it instead of accusing the LW of lying.

  50. Loredena Frisealach*

    This is an amazing update, thank you LW! I really wanted to see this one, and so glad that it was resolved and HR restructured!

  51. Cat Lady*

    Hooray! OP, I’m so glad that things worked out in the end, and that your boss at least is a reasonable human being. Still not sure how the HR person concluded that only large dogs can be service animals (I once saw a documentary about service animals where one of the pressure therapy dogs was a Yorkie mix) but at least their weird prejudices are no longer your problem.

  52. LifeBeforeCorona*

    What a strange line in the sand for the VP to choose to dig her heels in. Hopefully, she learned from this experience but somehow I don’t think so. She’s out in the wild, measuring service dogs.

  53. La Triviata*

    Yay for OP and Josie, the fully competent service dog (unlike the HR person). May you continue to be able to work without having to deal with someone that stupid.

    And I was on the bus the other evening and a woman got on with a small dog wearing a “service dog in training” vest. She was small and adorable – it was chilly and she was wearing a onesie – pink – with big red hearts that had a banner over them saying “MOM”. I complimented the trainer, but didn’t distract the dog (although she was adorable and petting her would have been nice for both of us).

  54. Working Hypothesis*

    Hooray!!! Congratulations on your and Josie’s triumph. What a great update — thank you so much for letting us know how it all worked out!

    Many pats and scritches to the Very Good Dogs.

  55. OP*

    Thanks again for the love, all! I thought about sharing a photo but my dogs would be instantly recognizable to my coworkers and friends, many of whom read AAM, and I’m trying to stay at least mostly anonymous.

  56. Pretzgirl*

    Congrats OP!! Did you have to come out of pocket for the legal fees to address this nonsense?? I suppose it is an obvious or maybe naive question but I feel the least the company/board could do is reimburse you given that you never should have had to go that far and incur any legal expense if their HR person had been more competent!! I’m outraged on your behalf.

  57. Happily Retired*

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when that letter hit the C-suite.

    A fly with a video recorder, a live uplink, a recliner, and a good bottle of wine. Perhaps two good bottles of wine.

    OP, congrats to you and Josie (and your lawyer), in your joint victory over at least one of the Stupids of the work world.

    1. Happily Retired*

      —oh, and congrats and kudos to your boss for being willing to stick her/his neck out and fight for you, especially in the context of the CEO’s complicity in this sh!tstorm! Good bosses are precious beyond rubies.

  58. the cat's ass*

    This is the best update! Congrats OP on standing up for your rights. And kudos to your boss, too.I’m still side-eyeing your CEO though, because he’s a lying, spineless knob.

  59. MCMonkeyBean*

    Wonderful, wonderful update. I don’t want to celebrate someone getting fired, but that HR person absolutely should not have been in that job and I am glad that hopefully you will get a more competent HR in the future and it’s very good your board reacted so quickly and firmly with them.

    I’m also glad to see your direct supervisor is a reasonable and supportive person, as they presumably have more impact on your day-to-day life at your job than the CEO does.

    And mostly I’m glad this was all able to be resolved fairly quickly!

  60. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    “HR shut that down as well since “sales directors don’t understand the ADA like HR does”. ”

    YOU don’t understand the ADA like HR should. Sincerely, an HR Manager.
    (Glad she was canned.)

  61. Random Biter*

    From one pittie mom to another….


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