Post COVID in the Workplace Series: Can I Take My COVID Dog (or Cat) to Work with Me?

Can I take my COVID dog (or cat) to work with me?

As many office workers return to the workplace post-COVID, new questions arise that we did not ponder before the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Many remote workers picked up new working habits and even companions while working remotely.    Now, both returning workers and employers are faced with perplexing questions that need to be answered.  This series will attempt to answer these questions and maybe even make you laugh a little . . .

Can I take My COVID Dog (or Cat) to Work with Me?

With much of the U.S. population rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated (see who is getting vaccinated ) and remote working mandates starting to lift in several states, hordes of workers may (not sure if they all “will”) be heading back to the office.  As this transition back to the office occurs, it goes without saying that it and another COVID phenomenon – pet adoptions – will collide. Pet adoptions have drastically ticked up during COVID pandemic shutdowns locally and all over the country (Minnesota; Chicago; D.C. ), leaving many workers returning to the office with a pampered pooch (or cat) at home.

So, what is a formerly remote worker supposed to do with Fido now that they have to put on pants and shoes, brush their teeth and commute into the office?

If the formerly remote worker has a service animal, the answer to this question differs – Bark Wars for Employee: Pet Friendly Workplace Policies.

First, everyone needs to know that you cannot just bring your pet to work with you. I did this once and my old beagle Betty ended up spending an hour in my car in the parking garage.  For new pet owners, leaving your pet in the car is generally a big no-no (Can I leave my pet in the car?). I just assumed it was okay to bring my dog into my office tower; this assumption was wrong. Many commercial landlords do not allow animals into the building, with the exception of service animals. If you are the owner of a building, ask yourself what you want to do. If you are the owner of a business, check your commercial lease. If you are an employee, ask your boss (and I mean the actual boss who would know what the lease says). If your boss says no, it’s more than likely because the commercial lease does not allow pets on the premises. This is why Betty spent an hour drooling on my driver’s side window and ate a glove.

Second, if you can bring your pet to work with you, make sure your pet is well-behaved or trained to be comfortable outside of your home. If your pet injures or harms someone at or does damage to your place of work, you will more than likely be held legally responsible for that damage and your pooch could end up on a bad dog list . Just because you and Fido got comfortable working at home together from your couch does not mean that he will be comfortable working with you in an office on the 15th floor of a high rise.

Third, even if an employee can bring their pet to work and the pet behaves well enough to flourish in a workplace environment, a person is at work to work, not to hang out with their dog. During COVID shutdowns and remote working, it became very easy for the activities of life and the activities of work to blend into a seamless puddle of mush (that is a technical term), where time became unstructured. Work basically came home to live with us all for well over a year.  In most instances people gravitated towards a less structured workday that did not necessarily start at 9 and end at 5. That is why the COVID pet-adoption trend arose in the first place – people were at home with more time on their hands. As the workforce transitions back to in-person work, the imposed structure of a workday will come flooding back and there will not necessarily be time to devote to pet activities – like letting the dog out for a bio break or taking the dog for a bio break walk. Put simply, a pet might distract a person from doing their work at work.

So the answer to the question – Can I take my COVID pet to work with me? – is maybe.

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Kimberly Lowe

Kimberly Lowe

For over 20 years I have lawyered from the trenches with experience based on a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of how both for-profit and nonprofit enterprises operate. I guide entrepreneurs, executive management teams, boards of directors, multigenerational families, shareholders and investors through all aspects of the business life cycle from formation to operation to exit. Read Kim's Bio.

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