ADHD Job Rights and Accommodations

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If you have ADHD and are struggling at your job, this can be a very distressing experience. Perhaps you have had a verbal warning or a poor performance review, or been put on probation. Or maybe your boss has not given you formal feedback, but you realize that your work performance does not match your peers and you are concerned about the possible consequences. 

As you are living with this work pressure, you might have noticed your ADHD symptoms seem to be getting worse.

This is because stress can make your symptoms increase. Plus feeling that you are not measuring up despite your best efforts can take a toll on your self-esteem.

Many countries have laws to protect employees who have disabilities at work. In the U.S., the law is called Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This, and the subsequent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, are designed to protect you from workplace discrimination.

It can be difficult to know how laws and acts apply to you and your unique situation.  I reached out to Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and spoke to the Lead Consultant on their Cognitive Team, Melanie Whetzel.  Here are the answers to common questions and concerns workers with ADHD have.

Is ADHD considered to be a disability?

 

It depends. Rather than having a list of medical conditions that are considered disabilities, ADA has a definition of a disability.

Each person needs to meet that definition. This means some people with ADHD are considered to have a disability under ADA, and some are not. 

ADA considers a person to have a disability if:

  • they have a physical or mental impairment that considerably limits one or more major life activities,
  • there is a record of this impairment, or
  • they are perceived by others to have an impairment.

 

What accommodations can I ask for?

 

This is a question JAN gets asked a lot. Melanie suggests rather than looking for a list of generic accommodations, think specifically about your challenges in your work environment and what you would find helpful. For example, if you work in a cubicle and find the volume of noise in the office makes it hard for you to focus, you could ask for an accommodation for this particular problem. 

Some options include the following.

  • Move to a quieter area in the office.
  • Be allowed to wear headphones.
  • Have a taller cubicle.
  • Have a noise cancelling machine.

Another way to know what type of accommodations would be helpful for you is to use the feedback from your boss. Look at the areas of performance where your employer wants to see an improvement. If your boss does not like you arriving late, or you are working slower than he or she would like, ask for accommodations that will help you with these specific problems

You and your employer can find an accommodation that will help your problem and is feasible for them.

  The ADA states that the accommodation should not cause the employer hardship. For example, they might be able to make your cubicle taller, but probably cannot build you a private office space.

 

What can’t I get accommodations for?

 

In each job there are essential functions and marginal functions. These are decided by the employer and are usually in your job description (though not always). You are required to perform the essential functions, but can ask for accommodations for the marginal functions. 

Different jobs have different essential functions. For example, if you are a teacher, then one of your essential functions would be to arrive at school by 9:00 a.m. for the first class. However, if you are a computer programmer, arriving at work by 9:00 might be a marginal function. In which case, if time management in the morning is one of your ADHD struggles, you could ask for an accommodation. Perhaps you could arrange to arrive at work between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., and make up the time at the end of the day.

If your ADHD means you struggle with one of the essential functions of the job, there are still ways you can meet the job requirements. For example, speak to your doctor about changing the way you treat your ADHD, and learn practical coping strategies. JAN can offer advice and suggestions on strategies that might be helpful for you.

 

My boss said if they did that for me, they would have to do it for everyone.

 

An employer who is not familiar with ADA and ADAAA might think if they make a concession for you, such as you having your cell phone on your desk to use a productivity app, they will have to allow all employees to do this. The ADAAA states that employers can make a change to workplace rules for a person with a disability, without needing to extend it to all employees.

 

Do I say I have ADHD in a job interview?

 

Melanie says this is a personal decision. There are two schools of thought.

1)  Some people choose not to disclose their diagnosis in an interview in case it counts against them unnecessarily. You might have a job for years and never need to ask for accommodations. Other people do not realize they need accommodations until they are actually in the work environment. Still others might work for a company for 15 years before needing an accommodation, perhaps because of a change in the company's requirements. 

2)  Some people only want to work for an employer who is supportive of their ADHD. They tell potential employers in the interview of their diagnosis.

 

How can I ask for an accommodation?

 

You can make a request in writing or verbally.

 

What if my employer does not give me the accommodation I request?

 

If an employer fails to cooperate or denies accommodation, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

 

Is support available from JAN?

 

If you are going through a difficult time at work, you do not need to struggle alone. The JAN organization is there to help you navigate and understand your job rights and what accommodations you could ask for. They are a nation-wide organization. You can visit their website.

Source:

Melanie Whetzel. Telephone interview 9, June 2016    

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