Many employers misunderstand accessible parking

| July 9, 2014

Employers are bound by law to provide accessible parking to eligible employees. But that’s not always enough. When employers fail to treat each accessible parking issue individually, they may be in violation even when they think they are operating well within the law.

Accessible parking

Image by edkohler.

A former Kaiser employee sued her company for $143,000 after she was terminated for legally parking in a disabled parking spot. Lorri Titus, who was attending a work training conference in Hillsboro, alleges that a bus provided to transport Kaiser employees to and from the training center blocked her parked car that displayed a valid disabled parking placard.

Titus, who informed her supervisors of her disabilities (chronic back pain, pancreatitis, anxiety, and ADHD) three days prior to the conference, could not take the bus like everybody else. “The suit states that the bus driver told her that Kaiser employees were supposed to take the bus to the training, ‘…So you will have to wait,'” The Oregon Live reports. When Titus was blocked again the next day, her supervisor accused her of “looking for a fight”; the manager fired her two weeks later.

In another incident in Cook County, Chicago, Walsh, a disabled court worker was barred from using disabled parking spots closer to the court.

Walsh requested for an exception to park at the closer accessible parking spaces (reserved for judges) which would make her and two of her disabled co-workers’ life easier. The employee parking lot with accessible spots is 100 yards from the courthouse. For someone with multiple sclerosis, covering such a distance each day is no small feat.

After two months of waiting for a definite response, and later filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she got no respite. Only after Walsh’s daughter reported the problem to Chicago Tribune’s “What’s Your Problem,” was the matter resolved.

Last year in September, Pauline G. Fiest, former assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice, sued her employer after she was declined a free on-site parking space that would save her from walking a long distance to get to work. Pauline suffered from osteoarthritis in her knee. The district court rejected her suit on the grounds that the existing parking spot did not limit her ability to perform essential job functions.

The Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling, explaining that ADA’s “reasonable accommodation” requirement cannot be tied to an employee’s essential job functions and that it goes much beyond that. “Moreover, the requested reserved on-site parking would presumably have made her workplace ‘readily accessible to and usable’ by her,” explained the court, “and therefore might have been potentially reasonable accommodation under the ADA,” said the ruling.

Employers misunderstand accessible parking when they treat every disability issue as the same and look for a direct connection between accommodation (such as parking benefits) and essential job function. Kevin Troutman, a former human resource executive cautions employers not to “get too hung up on whether there’s a direct line between the accommodation and an essential job function.”

“The underlying message is that employers still need to perform an individualized analysis of each situation,” he continues.

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Category: Handicapped parking, Parking, Parking management

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Ritika is a content manager for SmartSign. Her talents include research, technical writing, and losing her phone at the first chance she gets. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pune University, India, she set off to test her writing skills (still in beta mode). Now, with over three years of experience in content writing, she has produced and managed content for multiple websites (automobiles, glamour, fashion, and travel.) Presently, she helps her team of writers wrap their head around the wonderful world of signage.

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