Here’s another way PSDP is working to advocate for you!
This comment is on a very focused issue, so we’ll review the background to clarify what’s going on.
As a way to work toward a just society, the U.S. federal government often requires all of the fund recipients through their various programs to abide by anti-discrimination laws. These laws are sometimes limited to a narrow context to which an act of Congress has allocated money through a particular bill.
So Congress passes the law (act), and then one or more regulatory agencies is tasked with writing the regulations and guidance that implement the law. This is the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). As you may know, DOJ updated the ADA regulations around 2010, because the agencies are also supposed to keep the regulatory laws and guidance up to date as more is learned.
In this case, the Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for keeping the regulations up to date for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), so we’re commenting on DOL’s update because it involves service animals.
As the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking notes, WIOA is DOL’s “primary mechanism for providing financial assistance for a comprehensive system of job training and placement services for adults and eligible youth”. So if you were to go to one of the many state or local agencies that receives federal funding through WIOA, WIOA gives them rules they must follow when it comes to your use of a service dog.
The deadline for comments was March 28th, 2016. PSDP’s comment is below and available through the docket folder. The final rule was issued on December 2nd, 2016, and did not make changes with respect to the proposed service animal portions:
A printable (pdf) version of PSDP’s WIOA Comment is also available, linked just below.
March 8, 2016
Naomi Barry-Perez, Director
Civil Rights Center
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue NW.
Washington, DC 20210
RE: Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 1291-AA36, Department of Labor Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
I’m writing to express our organization’s position on the portions of the proposed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations that pertain to service animals.
Psychiatric Service Dog Partners (PSDP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for fair and just policies and practices for all stakeholders when it comes to service animals. Members of our advocacy team have been assisting federal agencies for years in shaping regulations to squeeze within the constraints of both disability rights theory and real world practice. This includes the updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations promulgated by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
We heartily appreciate other agencies piggybacking on DOJ’s ADA regulations and guidance, since these are unusually wisely crafted and incorporate years of a breadth of quality input. PSDP thus supports the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) efforts in updating its nondiscrimination regulations implementing §188 of the WIOA by DOL following DOJ’s lead when it comes to service animals.
Individuals accessing the programs and services funded through the WIOA are in particular need of the nondiscrimination protections proposed in order to be integrated in society. As President Obama has repeatedly recognized and studies have confirmed, a diverse workforce creates high tides that raise all ships, driving not only newsworthy but everyday innovations by avoiding homogenized approaches to problems.
We have two recommendations for this proposed rulemaking when it comes to service animals. (1) The proposed regulations differ slightly from DOJ’s regarding the language around emotional support and the exclusion of miniature horses.1 Please justify or eliminate the differences; DOL has not explained them, so we lack the ability to advise further. (2) If DOL intends to follow DOJ’s lead more closely where the WIOA context does not require differences (as it does not seem to with the service animal definition), DOL can incorporate and defer to the ADA regulations by specific reference. This move saves DOL in perpetuity from having to modify its own regulations through another rulemaking proposal if DOJ’s definitions are updated. In one of our 2015 advocacy actions, Michigan’s legislature decided to do just that in several bills regarding service animals.2
Warm and sincere regards,
Bradley W. Morris, MA, CPhil
Director of Government Relationson behalf of the Board of Directors,
Psychiatric Service Dog Partners
1 Attorney John Ensminger perspicuously notes these differences in a side-by-side comparison in his respected animal law blog: http://doglawreporter.blogspot.com/2016/01/labor-department-proposes-service.html