When the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, one of the “reasonable accommodations” contemplated was allowing seeing-eye dogs to accompany blind persons in places where animals were not otherwise allowed. That mandate did not prove problematic, as these dogs are highly-trained to perform their function of guiding a blind person, and to avoid being a nuisance. As the definition of disability under the ADA has broadened, however, more and more people are seeking to have their animals accompany them to work, and to stores, restaurants and other businesses. It’s not just dogs anymore, either. Cats, birds, horses, rodents and even potbellied pigs have been characterized as “service animals” or “comfort animals” needed as an accommodation. The rules differ with respect to whether employees or customers are involved.
Meal and rest breaks are important because missed breaks create significant liability. An employee who misses a meal period or takes a late meal period or a short meal period is owed a penalty. The penalty is equal to one hour of pay. One penalty is owed for each day in which a break is missed. Five missed, late or short meal periods in one week can mean that employee is owed an additional 5 hours of pay. The same is true for missed, short or late 10 minute rest breaks. As a result, one employee who works 5 days a week and fails to take proper breaks could cost the business 10 hours of pay in penalties (5 hours for meal breaks and 5 hours for rest breaks).