Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause difficulties for people in many areas of their life, including work. You might find that certain aspects of your job, such as organization or communicating with coworkers, are affected by your ADHD. You may be wondering if ADHD is considered a disability at work and whether you have legal rights and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
It's important for you to know and understand what your rights are as an employee with ADHD. This information will empower you to have a discussion with your boss about what you need to perform your job well.
ADHD at Work
You might be applying for jobs and wondering how to broach the subject of your rights with a potential employer or looking for ways to address difficulties you are experiencing at your current job.
Maybe you have had a verbal warning, a poor performance review, or been put on probation. Perhaps your boss has not given you formal feedback, but you realize that your work performance does not match that of your peers.
Under this work pressure, you might have noticed your ADHD symptoms are getting worse. Not only does stress exacerbate ADHD symptoms, but feeling that you are not measuring up despite your best efforts can take a toll on your self-esteem.
If you're concerned about the consequences of your struggles at work, the first step you can take is to learn about your rights as an employee with ADHD. Then, you can research the accommodations that might be available to you.
To help you get started, here are some answers to the most common questions related to your rights at work as an employee with ADHD.
A Day in the Work Life With ADHD
Is ADHD Considered a Disability?
Rather than having a list of conditions that are considered disabilities, the ADA defines the term disability. To have the rights, protections, and accommodations under the ADA, each person needs to meet the criteria set forth by the ADA's definition of what it means to have a disability.
The 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 this means is that some people with ADHD are considered to have a disability under ADA, and some are not.
Can You Join the Military With ADHD?
Can the ADA Help Me?
Many countries have laws that protect workers with disabilities at their jobs. In the United States, the law is called Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
While the ADA and the subsequent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 are designed to protect employees with disabilities from workplace discrimination, it can be confusing to understand how they apply to individual employees.
Verywell reached out to Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant on the Cognitive Team at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), who provided answers to some of the most common questions people have about their rights as an employee with ADHD.
Do I Have to Share My ADHD Diagnosis in a Job Interview?
Whetzel says that disclosing your ADHD diagnosis during an interview is ultimately a personal decision. Some people with ADHD choose not to discuss their diagnosis in a job interview because they are afraid it will count against them in the hiring process. Others are upfront about their diagnosis because they only want to work for an employer who would be supportive.
While you're interviewing for a job, consider that you might not realize that you need accommodations until you're actually in the job environment. On the other hand, it's also possible that you won't need to ask for an accommodation at all.
If you are hired, keep in mind that your situation at work might change. A person with ADHD might have worked for a company for many years without needing to ask for an accommodation, but finds that they need one after something shifts at work (for example, their job description or schedule changes).
Strategies for Living Well With ADHD
How Can I Ask for an Accommodation?
You can request a specific accommodation in writing or verbally. Check with your employer or your company's human resources department to find out if there are practices and protocols in place you need to follow.
What Accommodations Can I Ask For?
Whetzel suggests that rather than looking for a list of general accommodations, think about the specific challenges in your work environment and what you would find the most helpful.
For example, if you work in a cubicle and find that the noise volume in the office makes it difficult for you to focus, ask for accommodations that specifically address the problem. For example:
- Moving to a quieter area in the office
- Being allowed to wear headphones
- Having a taller cubicle
- Getting a noise-canceling machine
Another way to know what type of accommodations would help is to think about the areas of your job performance where your employer wants to see improvement.
You can use feedback from your boss as a guide. For example, if they have spoken to you repeatedly about being late for work, ask for an accommodation that would make it easier for you to arrive on time.
The ADA states that accommodations should not cause an employer hardship. The goal is for you and your employer to find a solution that is helpful for you and feasible for them.
For example, your boss might be able to arrange for your cubicle to be taller, but they probably cannot build you a private office.
Tips to Focus at Work With ADHD
What Accommodations Are Not Available to Me?
Every job has essential and marginal functions, which are decided by the employer. These functions are usually (though not always) in your job description.
You are required to perform essential functions but can ask for accommodations for the marginal functions.
Each job will have different essential functions. For example, if you are a teacher, an essential function might be to arrive at school by 7 a.m. every day to ensure you are on time for your first class. However, if you are a computer programmer, arriving at work by 7 a.m. every day might be a marginal function.
If your arrival time is a marginal function and time management in the morning is a struggle for you, it might help to ask if you can start at 8 a.m. and make up the time at the end of the day when you have more focus.
If your ADHD causes you to struggle with an essential function at work, you can still take steps to meet the job's requirements. For example, you might ask your doctor if there is a more effective way to treat your ADHD.
You can also work on developing practical coping strategies. JAN offers advice and suggestions that might help you get started.
What If My Employer Denies My Request?
If your employer fails to cooperate or denies an accommodation request, you have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If you ask for accommodations and your boss responds by saying, "But then I'd have to do it for everyone," they may not be familiar with the ADA.
Here's an example: Imagine that you request to have your cell phone at your desk so you can use a productivity app that helps keep you on track. Your boss responds by saying that if they allowed you to have your phone at your desk, then they would have to allow everyone in the office to have their phones.
An employer who is not familiar with ADA and ADAAA might think that they need to make the same concession for everyone, but this is not true.
Employers can change workplace rules to accommodate an employee with a disability without extending the change to all employees.
The Best Jobs for People With ADHD
A Word From Verywell
If you are going through a difficult time at work because of your ADHD, know that you are not alone. But not every person with ADHD is considered to have a disability under the ADA. If you do, it's important that you know your legal rights and what protections are available to you as an employee.
If you are wondering if you need an accommodation at work, or are not sure what type of accommodation to ask for, there are many resources available.
Start by learning all about your rights as an employee under the ADA. You can also get support from JAN to prepare you for a conversation with your boss about your needs at work. Your employer's human resources department may be able to help guide you through the process.
If ADHD is making it difficult for you to function at work, consider asking your doctor about your treatment options.
The Most Helpful ADHD Resources
Rehabilitation Act, Section 504
The act prohibits discrimination against qualified employees who have a physical or mental impairments. Like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 requires employees to demonstrate how ADHD substantially impairs one or more major life activities.
Employees who disclose an ADHD diagnosis are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which may require you to provide reasonable accommodations for them to help them perform essential functions of their job.What are reasonable accommodations for ADHD at work? ›
- Provide structured breaks as a physical outlet.
- Utilize a job coach to teach/reinforce techniques.
- Allow the employee to work from home.
- Review conduct policy with employee.
- Adjust method of supervision.
- Use services of EAP.
- Provide private workspace.
How Does ADHD Affect Employment? An estimated 8 million to 9 million American adults have ADHD. And many other people in similar situations struggle on the job. One national survey showed that only half of adults with ADHD were able to hold down a full-time job, compared to 72% of adults without the disorder.What are employers responsibilities for ADHD? ›
The most important thing that an employer can do to support their employees with ADHD is to get educated. Find out about the condition, show understanding and a reasonable degree of flexibility – and ensure that the employee's colleagues are doing the same.Can a company fire you if you have ADHD? ›
ADHD is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means your employer can't discriminate against you because you have ADHD.Does ADHD qualify as a disability? ›
Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).What is ADHD discrimination? ›
If a person is treated worse or less favorably than other employees simply because of their ADD or ADHD diagnosis, it could be considered workplace or employment discrimination. Such discrimination would be a violation of ADD and ADHD in the workplace rights.Is ADHD covered under FMLA? ›
For employees and family members affected by ADHD, FMLA may be an option to care for unique needs related to ADHD if criteria are met for ADHD to be considered a serious health condition as defined under the law. Consult your employer's FMLA policy and/or your human resources department for more information about FMLA.What can employers do to support employees with ADHD? ›
- Schedule regular check-ins. ...
- Make short-term goals clear to group members. ...
- Support time management of tasks and projects. ...
- Be sensitive and open-minded. ...
- Provide helpful techniques to meet deadlines. ...
- Help them get things done their way. ...
- Assign a task buddy to help get work done.
You must disclose your documented diagnosis, and show that ADHD “substantially limits a major life activity” — in this case, your job. Formal requests for an accommodation must be made in writing, and the accommodation(s) you ask for shouldn't place an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.Are there any jobs you cant do with ADHD? ›
You can do any job you want, but often individuals with ADHD do well with flexible or non-traditional schedules. They also tend to be calm under pressure and thrive in fast-paced environments, such as classrooms, hospitals, or restaurants.What are reasonable adjustments for ADHD? ›
Reasonable adjustments for someone with ADHD could look like: Financial support to buy software that aids focus. A separate space away from an open plan office or permission to work from home. Support to buying physical equipment like noise-cancelling headphones.What are people with ADHD good at? ›
These may include hyperfocus, resilience, creativity, conversational skills, spontaneity, and abundant energy. Many people view these benefits as “superpowers” because those with ADHD can hone them to their advantage. People with ADHD have a unique perspective that others may find interesting and valuable.Is ADHD a disability for SSI? ›
ADHD is included in the category of Listed Impairments, under the SSI guidelines. Full documentation about the initial diagnosis and its severity will help substantiate your claim. Note: The application is complicated, but the Social Security website (ssa.gov) explains the process.Is ADHD a mental disorder or a disability? ›
ADHD is a protected disability under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).Can you get disability for ADHD and anxiety? ›
If you or a loved one with ADHD meets the triggers as listed by the SSA's impairments under neurological conditions for ADHD or other disorders, you may qualify for SSDI. The SSA updated its listing for anxiety disorders under neurological disorders to include other disorders such as OCD.Is ADHD a form of Autism? ›
ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.Why is my ADHD getting worse as I get older? ›
As people age, they may face more challenges in their lives. This can include things like entering into new stages of development, such as adolescence or adulthood; increased stress levels; and competing demands on time, such as work and family responsibilities. These challenges can worsen ADHD symptoms in some people.What are severe ADHD symptoms? ›
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings.
- constantly fidgeting.
- being unable to concentrate on tasks.
- excessive physical movement.
- excessive talking.
- being unable to wait their turn.
- acting without thinking.
- interrupting conversations.
The causes of overdiagnosis may include changes in diagnostic thresholds, poor diagnostic practices, and advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. Overdiagnosis leads to overtreatment, and dramatic increases in prescriptions for adult ADHD during the last decade should arouse concern.Has anyone won PIP for ADHD? ›
Personal Independence Payments (PIP)
If you live in England or Wales, you might be able to get PIP if you need extra help because of an illness, disability or mental health condition, including ADHD (although success rates are just over 50% for this type of claim.
Individuals with ADHD often experience social difficulties, social rejection, and interpersonal relationship problems as a result of their inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.How do you deal with ADHD in the workplace? ›
Break down tasks into manageable pieces that can be achieved over time. Avoid getting stuck in a daily routine – schedule breaks and slight changes to your work routine can help you settle down to deal with the task at hand. Set an alarm to focus for set periods of time, followed by a break.Is ADHD considered medical or mental health? ›
Frequently Asked Questions. Is ADHD considered a mental illness or disorder? ADHD is considered a psychiatric disorder because its symptoms involve mental functioning and cause significant impairment.What disability category does ADHD fall under? ›
However, ADHD falls under the category “Other Health Impaired” and not under “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Individuals with ADHD can also qualify for accommodations under the ADA and Section 504 if their ADHD impacts a major life function such as learning.What is ADHD anxiety? ›
Sometimes, anxiety can occur independently of ADHD. Other times, it can be as a result of living with ADHD. A person who has ADHD and misses a work deadline or forgets to study for an important exam can become stressed and worried. Even the fear of forgetting to do such important tasks may cause them anxiety.Should I mention my ADHD in job interview? ›
When should you reveal you have ADHD? ADHD is a medical condition and should be treated as such. Employers cannot legally discriminate against you because you have ADHD, but to make certain it's not an issue, you shouldn't reveal you have it or if you need accommodations until after you have the job.Do I have to say I have ADHD on a job application? ›
It is up to the individual to reveal their ADHD. Often, you can get what you need without mentioning it. For example, you might say, “I'm really bothered by noise.What are typical accommodations for ADHD? ›
- Extra time on tests;
- Instruction and assignments tailored to the child;
- Positive reinforcement and feedback;
- Using technology to assist with tasks;
- Allowing breaks or time to move around;
- Changes to the environment to limit distraction; and.
- Extra help with staying organized.
Poor time management, difficulty setting priorities, and other job-related difficulties bedevil workers with ADHD. These problems all have to do with executive functioning, a set of cognitive abilities arising within the brain's prefrontal lobe. “This is the part of the brain that does self-monitoring,” says Nadeau.How is an ADHD brain different? ›
Research has shown that in children with ADHD, the prefrontal cortex matures more slowly than typically developing kids. It is also slightly smaller in size. Similarly, the cerebellum, hippocampus, and amygdala are also thought to be smaller in volume in kids with ADHD.How do you deal with a boss who has ADHD? ›
Instead of becoming bitter or passive aggressive towards your boss, you should act as a catalyst for greater teamwork. You can do this best through open communication. If you find working with a boss with ADHD challenging, tell your boss why. He or she will value the feedback.What is the 30% ADHD rule? ›
With ADHD children, we use "The 30% Rule" to set realistic expectations. The 30% Rule goes like this. Take the age of your ADHD child and subtract 30% from it. If your son is 12, for example, subtracting 30% of 12 (3.6 years) from 12 gives you 8.4.What is the 10 3 rule for ADHD? ›
Barkley has advised parents and teachers to consider the “10-3” Rule, meaning that we should limit difficult EF work for children with ADHD to 10 minutes of hard work followed by a 3-minute exercise break because (a) children rapidly reach a point of diminishing returns in this EF work, and (b) exercise is the “fuel” ...Do people with ADHD have trouble adjusting to change? ›
People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to struggle with transitions from one situation to another or one activity to another. Whether you have ADHD or not, even good change creates stress.What are the 5 gifts of ADHD? ›
The five gifts of ADHD include creativity, emotional sensitivity, exuberance, interpersonal empathy, and being nature-smart (The Gift of Adult ADD, 2008).What things make ADHD worse? ›
- Lack of Exercise. 1/11. If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. ...
- Eating Out Often. 2/11. ...
- Too Much Junk Food. 3/11. ...
- Skipping Breakfast. 4/11. ...
- Messy Homes and Offices. 5/11. ...
- Too Much Stuff. 6/11. ...
- The Wrong Meds. 7/11. ...
- Lack of Sleep. 8/11.
A recent review of findings on ADHD and FFM personality suggests that, in general, ADHD has associations with the FFM traits of Neuroticism (positive), Agreeableness (negative) and Conscientiousness (negative).Is ADHD ADA discrimination? ›
Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.
“I was told by the senior manager of a neurodevelopmental children's service that I shouldn't be a nurse if I have ADHD.” While ADHD is a protected disability, many adults say they've experienced discrimination at work because of their disorder.Is ADHD considered to be a disability? ›
Is ADHD considered a disability? Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). There are several types of disabilities, including but not limited to: learning disability.How do you manage a job with ADHD? ›
Break down tasks into manageable pieces that can be achieved over time. Avoid getting stuck in a daily routine – schedule breaks and slight changes to your work routine can help you settle down to deal with the task at hand. Set an alarm to focus for set periods of time, followed by a break.How do you prove disability with ADHD? ›
- Medical history.
- Documentation of medical condition features such as hyperactive and impulsive behavior.
- Records of any mental status examination.
- Records of psychological testing.
There are benefits available which you may qualify for, however a diagnosis of ADHD by itself does not automatically entitle you to receive them. Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which was previously known as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), applies for adults aged 16-24 years old.What disability does ADHD fall under? ›
However, ADHD falls under the category “Other Health Impaired” and not under “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Individuals with ADHD can also qualify for accommodations under the ADA and Section 504 if their ADHD impacts a major life function such as learning.What should you not say about ADHD? ›
Don't Suggest They'll Outgrow It. People can have an ADHD diagnosis at any age. Some may get a diagnosis in their early childhood years, and some may not realize they may have this condition until they're in college. It's best to avoid telling someone they'll outgrow the condition, especially for a young child.Does ADHD qualify for disability on taxes? ›
An ADHD diagnosis, in and of itself, is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. As a child, you must have had measurable functional impairments (which show up as recurring poor performance in school) and as an adult, you must have measurable functional impairments that keep you from working.