how do I tell disabled employees they can’t have a handicapped parking space?

A reader writes:

I work in a call center of approximately 2,000 employees of which 1,500 are customer service representatives. In order to accommodate such a large staff, we have completely revamped our parking policy. In the past, our CSRs were allowed to park on our main campus for one reason or another. The campus has parking for 410 employees only, so some of our middle managers were forced to parked at one of our two satellite locations. To better align our parking based on role, the company moved all CSRs to one large satellite location which accommodates over 1,000 cars and provides shuttle service to transport our associates to and from. All middle managers and above are now assigned a specific space on campus.

We have also doubled the number of handicap spaces to accommodate our associates in need and they were assigned as well on a first come, first serve basis. How do I say to our handicapped associates, who did not get an on-site space, that there are no more handicap spaces available? Our senior management is totally against saying this right out, and wants me to find a way to say no without really saying no.

The law does require that we provide 1 handicap space for every 25 spaces we have on our lot. That we have done, plus extra handicap spaces have been provided. We are out of handicap spaces and have provided on-site spaces, but not handicap spaces. Now, we have no spaces left. How do we say this in a nice manner?

Why? Why wouldn’t you want to provided handicapped employees with spaces that are easier on them?

Is there some problem where employees are pretending to need handicapped parking when they really don’t? I mean, in junior high I used to keep an ace bandage in my locker so that I could wrap up my wrist with it and pretend to have a sprain so that I could get out of gym class, but I really doubt that you have a bunch of adults who are feigning disability.

So assuming that you have employees with a genuine need, give them the spaces.

And if you don’t want to — which I find inexplicable — then there’s a little law called the Americans with Disabilities Act that’s probably going to require it anyway. Explain that to your senior management who are making this request of you.

If this means that some of your managers have to park in the satellite lot and ride the shuttle, well, so be it. Assign the remaining spaces based on seniority. If the ones who have to take the shuttle complain that they should get a closer space over someone with a disability, that’ll tell you a lot about their character.

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Kerry*

    I'm blown away that this is an issue.

    In my experience, recruiting and retaining CSRs (good ones, anyway) is not easy. Why would you want to say to good employees who have a physical disability, "Sorry, you lose!" Over parking spaces? That's nuts.

    I don't need a special parking space, but if you treated the person next to me like that, I'd notice, and I'd get the hell out of there.

    Make enough spaces so all of your disabled employees who need a space get one.

    (I also kept an Ace bandage in my locker throughout junior high to get out of gym. Last week my four-year-old said she didn't want to go to school because it was Monday, and Monday is gym day. I see an Ace bandage in her future too.)

  2. Anonymous*

    Our senior management is totally against saying this right out, and wants me to find a way to say no without really saying no.

    Cause they don't want to be sued.

  3. Anonymous*

    If I'm understanding this question correctly, handicapped associates had been getting handicapped spaces at the campus lot. Now the company is out.

    In order to keep with ADA regulations, the satellite parking locations should have handicapped spaces. As long as the shuttle is handicapped accessible, I don't see a problem.

    The writer should have the company talk to its lawyers and see if those satellite handicapped spaces are sufficient.

  4. Anonymous*



    I hope you're actively looking for a new employer. These guys are going to get your company in trouble sooner or later and do you really want to be there when it happens?

    My building has stairs for those of us who can't leap from floor to floor in a single bound. Handicapped spaces, ramps, elevators all serve the same purpose- to get employees and clients from place to place.



    I mean- really!

    Lois Gory

  5. Athena Marie*

    I have been an avid reader of your blog but I have never commented. I am just really curious to see the outcome of this situation and to have the OP possibly respond to some questions. It's a tough situation, but if I were in middle management, I'd take a spot at the other location so that a disabled person could have a closer spot. There has to be a "low man on the totem pole" in middle management that would be required to give up their spot.

  6. Anonymous*

    Hi – we are the middle managers that aren't whiny, selfish crybabies and even though we have the "minimum number of handicapped spots required by law plus a few extra", if there are still more employees who honestly need to park closer, we are fine with parking further away. That is all.

  7. Anonymous*

    Ooh, middle managers! If you're this fierce on a blog comment board (where no one was calling you whiny or selfish), imagine how spine-tingling you'll sound when you tell your bosses "there is absolutely no way to tell the employees this without us getting sued for lots and lots of money."

    To be fair, AAM seems to be going off on the OP for making this decision, when it sounds to me like OP's bosses made the decision and then ordered OP to be the shootable messenger.

  8. Amanda*

    The law the OP mentions about having one handicapped-accessible space per 25 regular spaces are probably only planning and zoning requirements, which are the minimum spaces required by the municipality for the parking lot redesign plans to be approved. The facilities manager (or whomever is in charge of this parking project at the company) didnt think to figure out how many employees would need the spaces, and doesnt want to have to deal with remarking the lot and ensuring ramps are available.

    The poor managers at the firm shouldnt have to deal with a mistake by doing the right thing. That would be dreadful.

  9. Anonymous*

    I think that you would be sadly surprised to hear how often it does happen where employees pretend to be disabled or have a doctor verify they are disabled to help reduce walking distance in a parking lot or other various things they don't want to do while at work. However, these same employees have no trouble doing many active things during their non-working hours (yes usually it is a small town so news travels fast). I have been at several different sites of several different Fortune 500 organizations and have seen it at every manufacturing site. It is a discouraging situation but not that uncommon.

    That being said, regardless of if it is a fake disability or not, if the employee has the documentation to support a need then they should receive a designated spot.

  10. William*

    First, I am not a lawyer, but I think there are a couple of misunderstandings here. First, the law that refers to a certain percentage of spaces being reserved as handicapped is generally intended to accommodate handicapped visitors, not employees. If you are reserving these spaces for your employees, you may (note, may, again, IANAL) already be in violation of local and federal laws.

    However, for the issue of assigning parking to your handicapped employees, I am going to have to side with the company. I think AAM and the posters are missing the point here. The issue is the distance an employee has to walk to get to the workplace from their parking spot, not which lot that parking spot is in.

    The original poster stated that the on-site lot holds 420 cars, and that there is a shuttle from another lot. Lets say the company has exactly 420 handicapped employees. Now, lets say the company did as AAM suggests, and put all 420 employees in reserved spaces in that lot. Now, some employees are near the door, and have a walk of less than 100 yards. Other employees, however, have a walk of over 500 yards. There we have a clear violation of the ADA, and a very good group discrimination suit. Why?

    There is a shuttle, which we can assume is handicapped accessible, which stops in the alternate lot. The shuttle stop can be considered a new entrance to the building, and handicapped spaces must be provided in a reasonable proximity to this shuttle stop if there are not enough spaces available in a reasonable proximity to the entrance to the facility.

    In other words, if you force a handicapped employee to walk 500 feet from the farthest spot in the main lot, because you take AAM's suggestion, rather than assign the employee a spot within 100 yards of the shuttle, you are not accommodating the employee's handicapped status.

    (Note: In writing this, I am mostly considering handicaps that affect mobility. There may be handicaps that would give a priority to on-site parking, as may the severity of the handicap – a wheelchair bound employee might be given preference for an on-site space, while an employee who uses a cane may be relegated to the off site lot.)

  11. Anonymous*

    Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights issue. Zoning laws for accessible parking spaces is a planning regulation. Complying with zoning laws does not mean the company has complied with the civil rights law.

    The civil rights law says that an employer must make a 'reasonable' accommodation for a person with disabilities. Assigning a parking spot that already exists for an employee that is already on staff would definitely qualify as a reasonable accommodation. The people this letter-writer should be saying 'no' to are the middle-managers who are too lazy to take the shuttle.

  12. Anonymous*

    AAM, I agree with you, however, my agreement means nothing. The issue isn't the number of handicapped spots but rather the ratio of handicapped spots required by location, # of employees etc. Notice I said nothing about actual need. Thank the powers that be on that one = federales. Is this stupid? Hell YES.

    btdt, got the shirt..cap & cup. I'm also grateful my crew has a keen sense of decency. btw I lead by example, sneaks on, hoofing it.

  13. Anonymous*

    To deny handicapped parking spaces for disabled employees is a violation of the ADA; this is grounds for a lawsuit.

  14. Lani*

    The issue here isn't distance traveled between handicap-park to work-place, it's distance walked.

    Unless the on campus car parks are arranged AROUND the office building like a border/moat, I would imagine that most people would be better off walking a couple of metres from satellite park to the shuttle to front door, than across an entire carpark solely reserved for handicap parking

  15. anonymous*

    My employer built a new building. The parking in front of and beside the building is designated handicapped for visitors only. The attending physician lot is next then the general employee parking lot. Handicapped employees have been told they need to park on opposite side of original building thereby needing to walk from that parking lot, to the origninal building, THROUGH the original building to the entrance of the new building and then to the area in which they work. I have severe pain with walking. I work nights and my requests to park nearer to the place I work made to employee health and my manager have fallen on deaf ears. Suggestions?

  16. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous, I think there’s a good chance that your employer needs to accommodate you and other disabled employees under the ADA. I would talk to your HR department, which is presumably more educated about their obligations under the ADA than your manager seems to be. Good luck!

  17. DIANE*

    I have worked at my company going on 28 years.I had triple bypass 5 years ago and I have COPD.I have 2 bad knees .I can do my job once I get into my location.I had to have a handicap parking place about 4 years ago since I can’t walk up the hill going my work place.I was giving a spot out front in the handicap parking and it is flat but I still get out of breath .I was told tonigh t by my boss I wasn’t allowed to park there any more I had to park down hill and walk up.I can’t I will pass out before I get up the hill.I told him HR approved me to park out there and he said he didn’t care what HR said he will take care of that.They are hiring more people for the office work in his department and needed my space .I only go to work and home since I get out of breath so easy and now to be told I have to walk up this steep hill to get to my work station is tearing my nerves up.I can’t afford to quit.HELP

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Talk to your HR dept. Tell them you’re worried that if it’s not handled delicately, your boss is going to hold it against you. They should be able to help — in fact, the law probably requires them to. Good luck!

  18. gayle*

    I am disabled after shattering my kneecap 8 years ago. I recently took an FMLA leave followed by a medical leave to have more surgery on it. When I went on leave, I was a writing resource teacher which allowed flexibility in my job by not being confined to a classroom with physical responsibilities that I cannot do. Recently I was told that I am being assigned as a 5th grade teacher for next school year. I told the principal last year that I could not do a classroom teacher job which requires a lot of walking, putting things on the walls, boards, moving books, objects, etc. I use a motorized wheelchair to get around school and classrooms are not big enough to move between/around student desks. About 4 years ago, the county put in concrete in front of some of the classrooms so I could get my wheelchair into some rooms and last year they put in two electric doors and poured concrete sidewalks to all of the portables for the principal who had her leg amputated due to diabetes and is also in a motorized wheelchair. If I have to take the classroom teacher job, under the ADA, arent they required to supply me with a helper to assist me with the jobs that I can’t do? I have been a teacher for 21 years.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not a lawyer and you should probably consult with one, but under the ADA they’re probably required to offer you some form of accommodation (although not necessarily the one you prefer).

  19. lisa*

    I just brought this issue up to my employer today and they are ignoring me as I knew they would. I get in at 11 and all of the spots are gone and I have to walk 3 parking lots deep to get to the building

  20. Ruth kassner*

    My workplace has over 1000 employees at its distribution center and offices. Building 1 has 10 handicapped parking spaces in the south lot and none in the north lot. I need to count total parking spaces. These 2 lots account for , I’m guessing, 15% of parking for our whole campus. I’m also guessing that there are 400+ spaces between the lots. I’m on second shift. I have no problem when there is a half hour between shifts to give the lot a chance to clear
    But most of the year the 2 shifts are back to back. Even arriving 1 hour early doesn’t insure a H spot let alone a regular spot. For the last 2 weeks there has been a huge hiring surge… Hundreds of new hires.
    Anyway you get the picture.
    For the past 8 years I have asked human resources to simply ask new hires whether they need a H spot and have a plackard. But they use HIPPA laws as an excuse to not provide H spaces. They claim they can’t ask if someone has a handicap yet they DO ask on the application if a person has any ‘ restrictions’ that prevent them from doing certain jobs. What is the difference! As far as I can see, HIPPA laws means that they can’t discuss someone’s handicap. Gee, as soon as someone parks in a H space everyone can see for themselves that the individual had some sort of a handicap.
    My question then is: do HIPPA laws really prevent an employer from conducting a survey to determine how many H spots are needed?
    My feet hurt on every step I take. And when I have to park in the back of either lot, it doubles the distance I have to walk… Which amounts to more than the length of 2 football fields

      1. Wheels*

        HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), not HIPPA applies to ANYBODY with access to private health information, not just doctors. The fines are quite steep too.

        First of all, this employer is violating the law by not providing accessible stalls in each parking lot. Secondly, the second lot also has to have the required number of accessible stalls as it counts as a separate lot entirely and your employer cannot count the spaces in the first lot to have less in the second.

        Your employer is required to ensure you have access to your job. If they need to provide more spots to ensure this, then that’s what needs to happen. Call HR back and tell them you are having accessibility issues with the lack of parking and ask how you begin the accommodation process. All employers are required to give their disabled employees a reasonable accommodation to allow them to do their job. As long as you can do your job and parking is the only issue, a reserved spot might be the accommodation you need.

  21. Someone*

    Hi I am in a similar situation with parking. We employees are required to park in a a different lot and be shuttled by a van. We havr hundreds of employees with just 1/3 vans at a time shuttling us. I have 2 questions us having to wait those extra 15 mins or more that we are inconvienced shouldn’t we be compesated? Sometimes the back up makes me late to my daycare causing a problem. Secondly are we required to say we are having medical issues that could be considered a disability? I asked for 1 day permission to park on site so that I wouldn’t loose an appt w/specialist that was scheduled at 4:30pm. The latestes I could do so that my wrk schedule wouldnt be affected. The employer refused stating no becuase then everyone would want to come in with a medical excuse.

  22. Jim J*

    I work for a very large corporation. There are sufficient handicap spaces inside our parking lot. When you parking in the lot you have to go through a turnstile to enter the inner lot. Which is about 100 feet to an entrance door. I as well as all the other employees have used this entrance for years. Now last year the company decided that we all need to walk to a differnet entrance which is almost 4 times as for from that turnstile. A good 300 to 400 feet. There is sufficient parking inside of this fence where we could be designated handicap. Several supervisors have been parking inside this for years as well as motorcycles during the warm weather. When I asked about this practice and why handicap cannot park inside the fence to be closer to the door I was told policy was changing and that no one will be allowed to park inside soon. Well I think I was just ignored. Is there a distance from parking spaces to a building entrance requriment? We even have one guy with the bottom of his leg missing that must walk this distance daily. By the way, did I mention we are blue collar? I look forward to a response. Thanks

    1. Wheels*

      Handicapped parking is required to be the shortest distance from the entrance/exit to the facility. If the inside parking where managers are utilizing is closer, those stalls are required to be accessible stalls.

      If it were me, I would ask when that change was going to be made. That way, you have a couple of things to say. One, if it’s going to happen a couple of months from now, then that’s a couple months you could be accommodated the way the law intended and you can use the closer lot. And if it’s going to occur immediately, when do they plan on allowing disabled employees to use the closer entrance which is required by law? Allowing managers to use closer parking at the detriment of disabled employees is a violation of the the ADA.

      Also, turnstiles are unusable by us wheelies, was there a way for chaired employees to get inside?

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