Juan Alonzo-Miranda, a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, uses a service dog named Goldie to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When he made the request to bring Goldie to work, his now-former employer took more than six-months to respond. To add insult to injury, they also put limitations on the agreement.
Alonzo-Miranda, 33, believes that Schlumberger Technology Corp., a division of Houston oil field mega company Schlumberger Ltd., violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The two faced off for the first time in a San Antonio courtroom on March 17, 2015.
This case is the first of its kind to go to trial in the United States. Alonzo-Miranda is suing Schlumberger Technology for compensatory damages for mental anguish, back pay, and an unspecified amount of punitive damages. The company has denied any wrongdoing, but there are many other cases where service dogs have been allowed in the workplace.
RELATED: 21 Unusual Facts on Dogs
Alonzo-Miranda completed three tours of duty in Iraq, two with the Marines and one with the Texas National Guard. In 2010 he joined the maintenance facility at Schlumberger where he worked on large oil field equipment.
In early 2012 he had a panic attack while on the job and suffered from suicidal thoughts. After that incident he requested that he be able to bring his service dog to work. Goldie, an eight-year-old Labrador mix, had been certified just a few months prior based on the recommendation of Alonzo-Miranda’s therapist.
Train a Dog-Save a Warrior, a San Antonio nonprofit group, had specifically trained Goldie to recognize and respond to Alonzo-Miranda’s PTSD. Studies have shown that service dogs can have a positive effect on veteran’s stress just by touching them.
Alonzo-Miranda’s lawyer, John W. Griffin, has stated that they are not out to get rich, but simply to open the door for other veterans who are hoping to join the workforce and overcome injuries, both mentally and physically, that were sustained in war.
RELATED: 16 Best Dogs for Families with Kids
Service dogs have been proven time and time again to help people cope with issues such as PTSD, and they want other veterans and their service animals to be treated fairly in the workplace as well. Schlumberger responded that they needed documentation from Alonzo-Miranda’s doctor to explain why it was necessary for him to bring the dog to work and if any other accommodations could be considered.
The company also alleges that Alonzo-Miranda hid the fact that his psychologist and psychiatrist both told him that they didn’t support him bringing Goldie to work. They believe he continued to look for a doctor until he found one that would sign off on the request. They also say that he delayed providing necessary medical records.
It is likely that there won’t be a ruling in the case for months, but for the time being, Alonzo-Miranda is working as a mortgage claims processor and Goldie accompanies him to work every day.