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Disability Law

Clash of Rights over an Allergy-Detecting Dog Leads to EEOC Complaint

Posted May 14, 2010 6:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The rights of an employee who uses an allergy-detection dog are at odds with those of another worker with asthma in a complaint pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Emily Kysel brought her specially trained, $10,000 golden-retriever to work at the city of Indianapolis until a co-worker reacted to the animal with an asthma attack, the New York Times reports. Kysel’s boss then gave her a choice, the story says: Report to work without the dog or go on indefinite unpaid leave.

Kysel has a life-threatening allergy to paprika, the story says. During her first week on the job, she suffered a severe allergy attack caused by a co-worker eating buffalo wings. Kysel’s family bought her the dog, Penny, after that and she brought the animal to work until the asthma incident. Penny is trained to jump on Kysel whenever she smells paprika.

After Penny was banned, “I was crestfallen, angry,” Kysel told the Times. “I thought I had jumped through all the hoops to get permission, but then it immediately felt they were favoring this other individual.” She also says her employer is being unfair because the city allows service animals for the blind at work.

The same issues arise when children bring service dogs to school, the ABA Journal reported in April. The story focused on 6-year-old Kaleb Drew, a central Illinois student who uses a dog trained to calm autistic children. His family contends the dog is a dog is a service animal, while the school district disagrees. The case is pending before an Illinois appeals court.

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