Fifth Circuit Finds for Employee in Important ADA Case - More Expansive Interpretation of Required Accommodations

This week the Fifth Circuit issued a very pro-employee decision on an important ADA question that has remained open until now.  In Feist v. Louisiana, the question presented was whether an employer is obligated to provide only an accommodation designed to help the employee perform the essential functions of the job OR must an employer do more and provide an accommodation that allows an employee to enjoy all privileges and benefits of employment as enjoyed by similarly situated employees without a disability? This week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals answered this issue in favor of the employee, stating that it is reversible error for a court to require any type of nexus between the accommodation requested by an employee and the essential functions of the employee's job.  Citing to the regulations, the Court noted that an accommodation is required to allow an employee with a disability to "enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities."

While the ADA's regulations have always been clear on this matter, numerous district courts have held otherwise in the past.  The Fifth Circuit's decision will hopefully clarify this issue and make it clear that the more expansive view of ADA accommodations for employees is required.

As my friend Mike Maslanka notes, "This is big news."