Business Liability: Should You Allow Dogs in the Office?

With cool tech companies like Airbnb, Facebook, and Pinterest changing the way the classic American office is laid out, filled with open seating, ping-pong tables, craft coffee on tap, and daily happy hours, the perks of working for a company like this are undeniable. One trend that’s caught on in recent years is that of bringing your pet to work–specifically your dog. But, what does this mean for your business liability risks?

For pet owners who have to head to the office for 8-12 hours a day, leaving your dog or cat behind may bring on feelings of guilt. But for those who opt to bring their pet to work, they may feel like they can get more work done without having to worry about them. But the potential implications for a company’s legal standing must also be addressed. Does bringing a dog to the office up the chances of having to face a business liability?

Before companies start to install dog doors and allow time for workers to take their dogs out on a walk, it’s important to look at the potential business liability risks that come with bringing dogs into the office.

Business Liability & Dogs in the Office

Business owners should know that they can always be on the hook–legally speaking–if an animal they allow in the workplace injures an employee, customer, or vendor. Even though your dog may be the most mild-mannered dog at home, there’s no promise it won’t act out and end up biting someone or snapping at them.

Property Damage

It’s one thing to worry about damage to our employees’ well-being, but it’s another to worry about the potential damage a dog can bring to the physical space of an office. Pets can damage carpets, computers, wiring, office furniture and equipment, and even eat your homework, or in this case, your presentation. Pet owners at a business can be held liable if an animal destroys another employee’s personal property that was rightfully held at the office, opening up the potential for even more liability problems.

Disability

Not everyone is a pet lover and they may feel that their safety, health, and overall well-being are being unfairly encroached upon if animals are in their workspace. Some people have a fear of animals, which could lead them to miss days at work or be in a constant state of discomfort, especially if the worker next to them has a social cat or dog.

Going further, some people have genuine allergies that fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, protecting them against liabilities such as being in a workplace where an office pet caused them to have an allergy attack.

Office and business owners can either ban animals altogether or keep them confined to certain areas or accommodate workers who have allergies or fear of animals by moving them elsewhere.

Needing Insurance

Local business insurance options can help to protect companies from the legal and financial fallout from liability claims related to pets. While there is some gray area on what can put a business in hot water when it comes to pets in the workplace, having to go through litigation can end up costing high legal fees.

General liability policy programs and other business policies can help to pay for claims or legal fees during the time of litigation. While avoiding claims altogether should be the goal for every business, having this kind of coverage can help to provide peace of mind in times of trouble.

If you decide to have a pet-friendly workplace, it’s important to make sure you listen to your employees and their concerns to be aware of potential risks in real-time. If there are issues, they should be taken seriously and policies should be enforced.

About Byrnes Agency

At Byrnes Agency, we offer insurance solutions that can be tailored to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re looking for personal policies or commercial coverage, we have the right coverage for you. To learn more about our products, contact us today at one of our two locations.

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