Employment-Fifth Circuit Rules That Plaintiff Can Establish An ADA Claim For Failure to Accommodate, Even Though There Is No Nexus Between Denied Accommodation And Job Functions

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, No. 12-31065 (5th Cir. 2013), the plaintiff, Pauline G. Feist (“Feist”), a former assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice (“LDOJ”), claims, among other things, that LDOJ discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by declining to provide a free on-site parking space to accommodate her disability (osteoarthritis of the knee). The district court granted summary judgment against Feist’s discrimination claim, holding that she failed to explain how the denial of on-site parking limited her ability to perform the “essential functions” of her job. Feist filed timely appeal, arguing that the ADA does not require a link between a requested accommodation and an essential job function.

In analyzing the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said that the sole question on appeal is whether the district court applied the correct legal standard in determining whether Feist’s proposed accommodation was reasonable, and thefore an ADA violation occurred when the employer did not honor it. The Court ruled that-to show reasonableness- Feist need not show a nexus between a requested accommodation-the on-site parking-and her ability to handle essential job functions. Accordingly, the Court vacated the district court’s summary judgment, and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings