Why Fido should stay home when you go to the office

Walter Rumsby/Flickr

Last Updated Apr 20, 2011 5:28 PM EDT

Amgen (AMGN) claims it fired a sales rep because she brought her dog to work. The accusation is part of a larger case about the much more important issue of whether Amgen went trawling through confidential medical records to find new patients for its rheumatoid arthritis/psoriasis drug Enbrel, but the dog-at-work claim sheds some light on an alarming trend in corporate America: The number of people who sincerely believe that they should be able to bring their pets to work with them.

These people need to be stopped. Dogs do not belong in the workplace. The resistance starts here.

In the Amgen case, Elena Ferrante alleges she was fired by Amgen because she refused to go along with an unlawful plan to trawl through patients' supposedly confidential medical records for people who may be suitable for Enbrel. The case is one of three against Amgen alleging that the company persuaded doctors to let sales reps rifle patients' medical records. Amgen's defense is that Ferrante kept bringing the dog on her visits to doctors' offices and then lied about it, according to her laywer, Lydia Cotz. Ferrante admits she brought Justine, a Yorkshire terrier, on sales calls but stopped doing so in 2001 after her bosses complained. She was let go in 2005. "It's totally fabricated and pretextual," Cotz said of Amgen's claim. A company spokesman said:

Amgen believes that the remaining claims in this arbitration have no merit. We look forward to concluding this matter in the arbitration process agreed to by all parties. Apart from that, Amgen will not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.

Cotz said:

The government would disagree with Amgen's position that there is no merit to our claims. The DOJ and the various state Attorney Generals have served Amgen with subpoenas for Enbrel and Aranesp. Their comments are without merit as are their frivolous defenses. One only has to look at Amgen's 10-Qs and their own admissions.

Ferrante may well have been wrongfully terminated -- it's still in arbitration -- but she's not alone on the dogs-at-work issue. One recent study claimed that having a dog at work makes employees more productive. There's even a "Take Your Dog to Work Day" (June 24), whose organizers believe:

... pets in the workplace boost employee morale, productivity and even sales.

People even dispense career advice about how to bring your dog to work. And those that can't, want to.

Lassie, go home 

Here's the thing: Having your dog at work is great -- if it's your dog. For the rest of us, it's a huge distraction. Sure, your ego may be getting a boost as all your cubicle-mates stop to scratch Rover's head, but the rest of us are trying to concentrate on what we're doing. Suddenly having your crotch sniffed by a friendly pooch doesn't get the spreadsheets done.

I've worked in a couple of offices where people brought their dogs to work. At one -- the Herald & News in Passaic, N.J. -- the two top editors brought their best friends with them. One of these dogs wasn't house-trained. The other one stole food from people's desks. It wasn't helpful.

At the second place -- Brandweek, in New York -- a fellow reporter hid her new puppy underneath her desk because she couldn't bear to leave it at home all day. It was very cute. And very disruptive. I went to my boss and insisted she tell the woman to take the hound home. Yes, I'm that guy.

In the 2000s, there was an ad agency in New York called Mad Dogs & Englishmen whose gimmick was that staffers were allowed to take their dogs to work with them. It went out of business in 2005, unable to surf one of the greatest economic booms the U.S. has ever seen. The dogs had nothing to offer in the way of online advertising skills, which the shop lacked.



Jim Edwards

I should say I'm a dog owner myself. That's Chloe (pictured), in front of my house. She's adorable. But I know that she isn't very good at writing, editing or coming up with story ideas, so she won't be making an appearance at CBS Interactive HQ in New York anytime soon.

I can't be the only person who thinks this way, surely?


Image by Flickr user wrumsby, CC.