The EEOC just announced in its new regulatory agenda and plan that it will propose rules to coordinate with the Labor and Justice Departments for charge and complaint handling procedures involving disability discrimination claims invoking the ADA as well as the Rehabilitation Act.

As if to underscore this announcement, the EEOC also announced that it has filed suit against a Michigan eyewear retailer for disability discrimination – it refused an optician the use of her service dog at work allegedly needed because of her generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

An EEOC attorney said that “The EEOC works to protect employees with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs. The EEOC’s investigation showed that this employer not only denied Miller’s request for an accommodation, but then fired her – only making a bad situation worse.”

Employers should note that service animals are an accepted accommodation under the ADA in appropriate situations.  And dogs are not the only acceptable service animals.  As my partner Christina noted in her March 29, 2012 blog post here:

MSN recently reported that a disabled man is suing GameStop Corp. for denying him and his miniature horse access to one of its stores. The man, who uses a wheelchair, uses the miniature horse as a service animal to help pull his wheelchair.

In case you missed this in the revised ADA regulations issued in March 2011, the definition of service animal now explicitly includes miniature horses. It also more narrowly defines service animal so that people cannot simply bring their pets into businesses and claim the animal is for emotional comfort. Instead, service animals can only be dogs or miniature horses.”