Suffering from an intellectual disability, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can make your job duties a little more difficult to complete. Regardless of whether you’re a superstar at work or need more time than your colleagues to complete tasks, your employer may be violating anti-discrimination laws if he penalizes you for having ADHD.
Severity of ADHD
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act -- which only applies to federal government employees -- prevent employers from discriminating against you because you suffer from an intellectual disability such as ADHD. In order for either law to protect you from employment discrimination, your ADHD must "substantially limit one or more major life activities." The major life activities that are often affected by ADHD are thinking, learning, concentrating and working. As a result, having only mild ADHD symptoms may not be sufficient to warrant employment discrimination protection under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, states that if you have a history of severe ADHD symptoms or your employer assumes that your disability is worse than it actually is, you may be protected under the ADA, or Rehabilitation Act, if your employer has at least 15 employees.
At the time you apply for a job, be aware that employers may not ask you about the existence of an intellectual disability, or if known to the employer, they can't ask you how severe your symptoms are. Your employer also can't harass you about your ADHD or use it against you when it comes to promotions, layoffs, employment benefits or anything else that relates to a privilege or condition of employment, notes the EEOC.
According to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, employers must be willing to make reasonable accommodations that make it easier for you to accomplish your duties at work while dealing with your ADHD. However, employers are within their legal rights to deny your request for reasonable accommodations if providing them will cause an “undue hardship.” An undue hardship results if the expense to your employer is substantial or significantly disrupts the business. Some accommodations you may ask for include more frequent breaks, a flexible work schedule or having your workspace moved to a less distracting area. It’s up to you to ask for accommodations and to provide medical proof of your ADHD diagnosis.
Making a Complaint
In the event you’ve been treated unfairly because of your ADHD or your employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations, you have the right to file a complaint with the EEOC. Your claim must be filed within 180 days of the most recent discriminatory act in order for the EEOC to investigate. If the EEOC finds evidence of discrimination, it may choose to file a lawsuit against your employer if it's unable to resolve the issue through mediation. When the EEOC chooses not to file a lawsuit, you have the option of filing your own lawsuit. Depending on the discrimination laws of your state, you may have additional causes of action against your employer.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Questions and Answers About Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Professional Media Corporation Sued by EEOC for Disability Bias
- U.S. Department of Justice: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: ADHD in the Workplace -- Overcoming Obstacles and Getting the Job Done
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.