In the recent case of Feist v. State of Louisiana, No. 12-31065, 2013 WL 5178846 (5th Cir. 9/16/13), the appellate court reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer. The case concerned a lawyer employee who asked for a closer parking space, instead of a space some blocks distant. Ms. Feist experienced pain in her knee due to osteoarthritis when she would walk to work so far from her car. The issue on appeal was whether an accommodation should or could address a need not directly related to an essential function of the job.
The Fifth Circuit found that an accommodation could indeed be required for a need not directly related to an essential function. The court noted that the language of the ADA states an accommodation can be provided to make the workplace "readily accessible to and usable" by the employee. 29 U.S.C.§12111(9)(A). EEOC Guidance specifically says that a parking space may constitute a reasonable accommodation. See 29 C.F.R. Part 1630 App., §1630.2(o).
The appellate court noted that the lower court incorrectly required the employee to show how the denial of the closer parking space limited her ability to perform her job. That analysis, said the Feist court, applied the wrong standard. The ADA is more expansive that that standard. See the Fifth Circuit opinion here.
One must wonder indeed how the lower court could ignore such clear statutory language.