May an employee working in California bring a hamster to work if the employee claims the hamster provides emotional support for his or her mental condition, depression?

Author: Melissa Burdorf, XpertHR Legal Editor

Yes. Effective December 30, 2012, a California employer must comply with the amended disability discrimination and accommodation regulations, which, among other things, expanded the types of animals an employee may bring to work as a reasonable accommodation for his or her disability. Historically, employees were limited to service animals, which included trained service or guide animals. However, this definition was expanded in the amended regulations to include assistive animals, such as support animals (e.g., a dog or other animal that provides emotional or other support) that can assist an employee who has depression or a traumatic brain injury, for example.

The amended regulations do not provide an employer with guidance on what type of animal or what type of support is necessary in order for the support animal to be necessary as a reasonable accommodation.