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Handicapped Spot May Be Reasonable Accommodation: 5th Cir.

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A suit over whether handicapped parking is reasonable accommodation for a qualifying disability was dispatched by the Fifth Circuit on Monday, with the Court giving a resounding ... maybe.

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, the appellant Pauline G. Feist, a former assistant attorney general for the state of Louisiana, is appealing her disability discrimination claim after the district court granted a summary judgment motion against her.

The state of Louisiana didn't want her to have her own handicapped spot, but was it illegal?

Feist's Disability and Requests

According to the Feist Court, Feist claimed "osteoarthritis of the knee" as a disability, one all parties in the lower court had agreed was both a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and one that was acknowledged by her employer, the Louisiana Department of Justice (LDOJ).

The sticking point was whether her request for a handicapped parking spot on-site was a reasonable accommodation, since failure to provide reasonable accommodation if there is a known, qualifying disability is unlawful discrimination under the ADA.

Feist had also brought up her request to telecommute -- which other Circuits have disapproved -- but the Fifth Circuit ignored the argument since it wasn't made at the lower court.

Was a Handicapped Spot Reasonable?

Since Feist was appealing a summary judgment motion, the Fifth Circuit viewed her case in the most favorable light to determine if there was any genuine issues of fact. As it turns out, the district court messed up its ruling because the court applied an erroneous standard, namely that the reasonable accommodation must be linked to the position's "essential functions."

A literal reading of the ADA doesn't require a reasonable accommodation to be related to the essential functions of the position. Turning to regulatory bodies for more guidance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines the link between the accommodation and the "essential functions" as one of three disjunctive ways to describe reasonable accommodations.

Since there is both a issue of law (erroneous standard) and possibly fact, the court remanded the issue to the district court to retry using the correct standard.

Bottom Line

The Fifth Circuit still hasn't weighed in on whether handicapped spots are reasonable accommodation, but they do seem to think it's possible. This case may be back on the merits to determine if blue lines and a white wheelchair on some asphalt are just too much to ask.

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