Well, that issue was unresolved in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until Sept. 16. That's when the 5th Circuit, in a very understated opinion, reversed a summary judgment for an employer and went with the latter, more expansive and pro-employee choice. This is big news.
The case is Feist v. State of Louisiana. The facts were simple: Employee suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee, which both parties agreed is a covered disability. As a result of the disability, she asked for reserved on-site parking. The employer said no. Both parties agreed that she was a qualified individual with a disability. She sued for ADA discrimination.
The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, noting the plaintiff's failure to explain how the denial of on-site parking limited her ability to perform the "essential functions" of the job.
On appeal, the 5th Circuit said this was the wrong standard, the law's requirements are much more expansive, and the employer's obligations to an employee with a disability extend to ensuring that the employee enjoy equal benefits and privileges to non-disabled employees.
I wrote about this issue in a post on Jan. 20, 2011. This case radically changes how employers must analyze requests for reasonable accommodations. There will still be resistance, but Feist is the tipping point.