Friday, February 7, 2014

Service Dogs on Job Interviews

I had a job interview of sorts today.

I came across an ad online the other day from a father looking for a tutor for his teenage son.  The son has some learning difficulties and perhaps other issues, such as ADHD and depression, that have not been formally diagnosed.  The dad wants a tutor to help his son get organized and help make sure work is completed on time and to help with study skills and test-taking skills and stuff like that.  I've worked with kids with learning difficulties and ADHD and things like that extensively in the past and I have experience teaching and it sounded like a great fit for me.  And it's for one hour twice a week.  And it will pay me enough to pay Isaac's dog walker, which may not sound like much but his dog walker is one of my largest expenses.

So this morning I was to meet the dad at a coffee shop to discuss the job.

I had to decide whether or not to take Isaac with me.  And, if I wanted to take him with me, I had to decide whether or not to call the dad and tell him I would be bringing my service dog or to ask if it was OK with him of I brought my service dog or if I should just show up with the dog.

The issue of whether or not to bring a service dog to a job interview is an issue of great debate among people with service dogs.

Those who think it's best to bring a service dog to an interview generally think so because:
  • If you wait until after they hire you to tell them you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation in the form of a service dog, they may feel you tricked them or were deceptive by not telling them before they hired you, even though under the law you aren't required to tell them before they hire you.
  • If you are able to go to the interview without the help of your service dog, they may wonder why you aren't able to go to work without your service dog.
  • And of course, if you have a service dog, it's generally because you need a service dog, so if you don't bring your dog to the interview, you'll have to figure out how to do things that your dog usually does for you in another way.
Those who think it's better to attend an interview without your service dog generally think so because:
  •  If you walk into an interview with a service dog, that's the first thing they'll notice about you.  They may make assumptions about the fact that you have a disability, like assuming you won't be a good employee because of your disability, without taking the time to get to know you first.
  • They may assume you're going to want lots of special accommodations or be a difficult employee in some way.
  • They may not know much about service dogs but may assume, incorrectly, that your dog is going to be disruptive in the work place.
  • While legally they can't refuse to hire you because you have a disability or require an accommodation like a service dog, they may instantly decide they don't want to hire you as soon as they see your service dog, for any or all of the above reasons, and you'll never know for sure or be able to prove it, but you may not get the job because you took your service dog to the interview.
Now, this was a bit different than a "normal" job interview situation for a couple reasons.  First, I don't think the ADA applies to dads that hire tutors for their kids.  The ADA definitely does not apply to private homes, so if I am tutoring a kid in his own home, whether I work for a company to which the ADA does apply or not, the family does not have to allow me to bring a service dog into their home.  Second, I wasn't even planning on asking to bring my service dog to the home to tutor the kid, and I wouldn't have been considering bringing my dog if I had been meeting the dad at his house instead of a coffee shop, so it wasn't like I would have to have "the service dog talk" with him later on if he offered me the job.

So why was I thinking of bringing Isaac to the interview?  Really just because it's easier for me.  Was it possible for me to go without my service dog?  Sure.  And that is what I ended up doing.  But it wasn't an easy decision for me.

And it's not only because it's easier for me to bring him, but also because I don't like the feeling that I have to hide something important about myself in order to get the job. 

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