Is ADHD a Disability?
A diagnosis of ADHD is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. If your ADHD symptoms are well controlled, you are unlikely to be legally disabled. However, if distractibility, poor time management, or other symptoms are making it difficult for you to complete your job, you may be legally hindered.
Legally, “disability” means a physical or mental condition that significantly restricts an important life activity – in this case work.
ADHD is a developmental disorder of the brain’s self-governing system – its executive functions – that affects about 9 percent of children and nearly 5 percent of adults.
Students with ADHD are protected by state and national laws that guarantee them free and adequate public education. Likewise, adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have certain rights that protect them in the workplace. But what are these rights? How do you make the most of it? Here we get legal answers from Robin Bond, a Philadelphia-based attorney with more than a decade of experience in employment law who acts as an advisor to the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
Are people with ADHD legally protected at work?
For adults, the baseline protection is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law, passed in 1990, prohibits companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating against disabled workers and obliges these companies to provide accommodation for these workers. These provisions may apply to some people with ADHD.
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Do employees with ADHD have any rights if they work for a company with fewer than 15 employees?
Possibly, but only under state anti-discrimination laws. For example, in Pennsylvania, you can sue whether the company has four or more employees. In other states, there may not be much you can do to protect yourself.
Who decides if ADHD is a disability?
It is not enough for a doctor or psychologist to give you a formal diagnosis of ADHD. He or she must state that your ADHD symptoms are severe enough to be considered disabled. If you meet these conditions, your employer is required by the ADA to speak to you about how the condition will affect your ability to work and consider providing accommodation that will allow you to do your job.
Does my employer have to do everything so that I can work?
Not quite. The law requires reasonable accommodation. These are things that are not unduly burdensome on the employer – things that are not outrageously expensive or burdensome for the company.
[Click to Read: Should I Tell My Boss I Have ADHD?]
Which ADHD accommodations are unreasonable at work?
It depends on the situation and the size of the company. What to expect from a multinational company can create undue difficulty for a small business. Let’s say you’re not a “morning person” and say to your boss, “I have to come by 10am, but I’ll work until 7am.” If the office does all business from 8am to 5pm, your request is likely not to be to fly. Given the company’s needs, this may not be appropriate. Or let’s say you can only stay organized if you have your own secretary. If the company has a firm policy for one secretary for every three employees, this placement may also be considered inappropriate.
Should I tell my employer, “I have ADHD. You have to accommodate me ”?
Don’t bring up ADHD until you have to. Often times, you can get what you need without even mentioning it. For example, you could say, “Noise really bothers me. I would be more effective and efficient if my office wasn’t that close to the copier. “
What if my boss refuses to provide ADHD accommodations?
Hire a coach to keep your work on track. And ask the boss again a few weeks later. However, if your boss starts criticizing your job performance, it is probably time to consult an attorney about the best way to uncover your ADHD. If you are fired before announcing that you have ADHD, it is difficult to claim that you have been a victim of disability discrimination.
Should I document the whole story?
That’s a good idea. Carry a notebook and take notes if you run into trouble: “The boss said I shouldn’t be late for the next meeting” or “Jack made fun of my trouble finding papers.” One thing you don’t want to do is type your notes on a company computer – or leave them in your office.
And the next step is “See you in court”?
This is the last step. Negotiations are better than litigation and are far cheaper. The first is to sit down with your employer and try to sort things out. To date, there have only been a dozen or so cases of an employee with ADHD suing their employer – and none of those lawsuits have been successful for the employee. Of course, the mere threat of legal action can be all that is required to get an employer to take your situation seriously. No employer wants to be the test case that leads to the first big victory for ADHD employees!
[Read This” How to Help Your Boss Help You]
Updated November 25, 2019
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