A Significant Fifth Circuit decision.

 

 

 

The Fifth Circuit, which covers federal district courts from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has been busy recently issuing decisions in the employment law area.

Surprisingly, many of these decisions from this traditionally pro-business Circuit have been pro-employee.

Indeed, recently there have been several instances where the Fifth Circuit has firmly sided with the plaintiff-employee, rather than the defendant-employer.

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19133 (5th Cir. Sept. 16, 2013),  the plaintiff was an attorney for the state of Louisiana and she claimed her employer violated the ADA by failing to provide her with a reserved parking space, at no charge, to accommodate her osteoarthritis.

The district court concluded that the employee’s request was not reasonable because the parking space did not relate to the performance of the essential functions of her position as a state attorney.   Assuming the district court applied the correct standard, its ruling makes sense.  Where an attorney parks her car has no effect on how she negotiates a contract, writes a legal brief or argues a motion in court.

In a pro-employee decision, however, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the district court, in fact, applied the wrong legal standard and vacated the summary judgment which had been granted denying the employee/plaintiff’s ADA failure-to-accommodate claim.

The appropriate standard, it determined, does not relate to whether the requested job accommodation concerns an essential job function.

The Fifth Circuit examined the text of the ADA, and concluded that it did not contain such limiting language.

The Fifth’s Circuit decision is significant. The Feist decision might very well represent a significant change in the Fifth Circuit’s overall view, approach and outlook towards the viability of employment law claims.

It opens up employers to a wide array of new failure-to-accommodate lawsuits and the resulting risk, time and expenses associated with them.

 

 

‘s decision.

The Fifth Circuit, which covers federal district courts from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has been busy recently issuing decisions in the employment law arena.

Surprisingly, many of these decisions from this traditionally pro-business Circuit have been pro-employee.

Indeed, recently there have been several instances where the Fifth Circuit has firmly sided with the plaintiff-employee, rather than the defendant-employer.

In Feist v. State of Louisiana, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19133 (5th Cir. Sept. 16, 2013),  the plaintiff was an attorney for the state of Louisiana and she claimed her employer violated the ADA by failing to provide her with a reserved parking space, at no charge, to accommodate her osteoarthritis.

The district court concluded that the employee’s request was not reasonable because the parking space did not relate to the performance of the essential functions of her position as a state attorney.   Assuming the district court applied the correct standard, its ruling makes sense.  Where an attorney parks her car has no effect on how she negotiates a contract, writes a legal brief or argues a motion in court.

In a pro-employee decision, however, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the district court, in fact, applied the wrong legal standard and vacated the summary judgment which had been granted denying the employee/plaintiff’s ADA failure-to-accommodate claim.

The appropriate standard, it determined, does not relate to whether the requested job accommodation concerns an essential job function.

The Fifth Circuit examined the text of the ADA, and concluded that it did not contain such limiting language.

The Fifth’s Circuit decision is significant. The Feist decision might very well represent a significant change in the Fifth Circuit’s overall view, approach and outlook towards the viability of employment law claims.

It opens up employers to a wide array of new failure-to-accommodate lawsuits and the resulting risk, time and expenses associated with them.