Yesterday this post made national news, and many guide dog users praised the city of Calgary and/or the cab company for firing this driver. Having seen (though not truly experienced) this situation many times, I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with this resolution…
The situation is not unfamiliar to many guide dog users: a taxi driver, store clerk, mall security officer refused access to a person with a disability accompanied by a service dog. In this case, the whole incident was captured on camera, and the driver was fined $750 and lost his job for refusing access. Such incidents are not uncommon, but appear to be less common than they used to be (according to many long-time guide dog handlers I know). According to the Alberta Service Dogs Act, the financial penalty is within the limit of the law. But human resources decisions are made by companies, and I wish them to reconsider their stance on firing employees who for the first time refuse service to passengers or customers with service dogs.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand the implications. An employee has represented your company badly and clearly broken the law. The provincial government’s financial penalty should have teeth, but making this a job-costing offense doesn’t serve your company or the employee who is fired, nor does it in the long run serve those who rely on service dogs. Such swift action tells the employee that his actions were wrong, but it doesn’t give them an understanding of why it’s wrong. I also firmly believe that it doesn’t give other employees an opportunity to learn from the experience, except for sending the message that “they need to provide service or lose their job.
I propose a different remedy:
- The financial penalty as outlined by Alberta law.
- A written reprimand in the employee file. If the employee in this case is licensed by the city, the city should receive a copy of such a reprimand.
- A probationary period (the length of which is at the discretion of the employer/city); If the access refusal happens again, THEN fire them. At least in that instance, they can’t say in any certain terms they didn’t know.
- Strongly encourage such employees to volunteer with service dog organizations. I firmly believe that many of these instances are based on a lack of education on what these dogs do. Their presence can provide a disabled person a degree of dignity that refusing access strips away. Maintaining volunteer relationships with service dog organizations may provide an opportunity for service providers to learn first-hand the work that’s involved in training these dogs.
This does not address the very real concern of allergies, because such an issue has already been addressed. It is made very clear that if someone is allergic to dogs, reliable documentation must be provided to the employer, and all efforts must be made for the safety and access of both the disabled person accompanied by a service dog and the employee or service provider with allergies. The above suggestions are for employees who for the first time refuse service to a service dog team.
In no way am I saying that such behavior is acceptable; I am simply saying that education goes a lot further than lowering a hammer. If an employer wishes to fire an employee for breaking the law and representing their name badly, that is their decision. But please don’t do it in my name.
here in Australia taxi drivers still refuse transport for people who have service dogs no matter how many times it is said that it is illegal. there are many cases where people are refused a taxi when with a service dog more than once.
in the news recently,
somebody I follow on twitter along with her friend were refused a taxi from an animal hospital but it makes me fear getting a guide dog and if I was to travel to Melbourne on my own I’m more vulnerable because I’ve often been discouraged from speaking up about what taxi drivers may do that is wrong or against the law as my mother has been with me at the time. I was refused a short fair which was only from the royal childrens hospital to the railway station and my mother said don’t say anything and don’t fight back or it would make matters worse so I never said anything and because the majority of taxi drivers in our Victoria’s capital city are all or mostly Asians they don’t really have a care in the world that refusing travel for a guide dog is illegal at the very least I wouldn’t ask for the drivers to be fired after the first offence but there should always be deiversity training about disabilities. there was a case recently where a war veteran was refused a taxi because he had a service dog and ironically a lot of veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and the service dog was a part of the rehabilitation process so it exaserbated the PTSD for that veteran and his friends. luckily where I live is a small town and I’ve spoken to my local taxi drivers who I know quite a number of them and they are people who would be willing to take a service dog.
one more story I will share is one that smacks of irony.
a long time guide dog user by the name of Joan Smith who I met over 20 years ago when I was first at the guide dogs training centre in Melbourne was refused a taxi from that very establishment so now you could probably understand why this story smacks of irony but taxi driver refusals of service dogs discourages one from even considering a service dog. I’m told it’ll never happen if I got a guide dog but hello, it happens all the time! think I’d rather just stick to the cane for this reason.