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Parking and reasonable accommodation for employees

What's your obligation, as a business owner, to provide parking for one of your employees with a medical condition that affects his or her mobility?

Like most things in the law: it depends.

Parking accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can relate to a number of different conditions -- not all of them immediately obvious. You might expect, for example, a request for parking accommodations from an employee who suffers from osteoarthritis of the knees that makes walking difficult. However, a similar request might come from an employee with a "hidden" disability, like a heart condition or asthma -- both of which can be affected by physical exertion.

First, it's important that you treat all requests equally and fairly. Don't assume that an employee who requests a parking accommodation due to something like a heart condition is any more capable of walking from a far-off parking space than the employee with obvious knee problems. Follow the same verification procedure for both so that you don't have even the appearance of discriminating.

Second, consider the reasonableness of the request based on your general parking accommodations. If parking is provided as a benefit of employment -- meaning that employees don't have to pay to park somewhere else -- then you need to make every effort to provide the accommodation. That may mean designating a parking spot for the employee you are accommodating or modifying the parking lot so that you provide an adequate number of disability-accessible parking spaces in general.

If you don't provide parking to your employees, then you are not generally under an obligation to provide an accommodation. Similarly, if you only provide parking for upper management and the employee is not at that level, then you are not required to offer them parking as an accommodation.

The ADA rules for employers on different issues can be tricky, especially since they tend to change over time as case law develops. Consultation with an experienced attorney can help you avoid employment litigation over ADA compliance.

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