ADA reasonable accommodation requirement not limited to essential job functions says 5th Circuit.

Feist v. State of Louisiana, No. 12-31065 (5th Cir. September 16, 2013).

This is a disability discrimination case under the ADA where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a trial court order granting the State of Louisiana’s (employer) summary judgment motion.

Feist was a former Louisiana assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice (“LDOJ”) who alleged she was discriminated against by failing to provide her a free on-site parking accommodation (for osteoarthritis of the knee) and for terminating her after she filed a charge with the EEOC. The LDOJ filed a motion for summary judgment arguing Feist failed to establish how the parking accommodation limited her ability to perform an essential job function and did not have any evidence of a causal link between her EEOC complaint and her termination. After the trial court granted LDOJ’s MSJ, Feist appealed.

The court first held that a “reasonable accommodation” under the plain text of the ADA is not limited to only those tasks necessary for an essential job function. The trial court erred in requiring such a nexus, but the 5th Circuit expressed no opinion as to whether or not the request in this case was reasonable or not. However, Feist failed to establish a causal connection between her EEOC charge and her termination. MSJ evidence established several performance justifications for terminating her which were uncontested and Feist failed to establish a material fact they were pretextual.  As a result, the court reversed the MSJ as to the discrimination claims and affirmed as to the retaliation claim.

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