ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, is a condition marked by issues with concentrating or focusing on one idea for prolonged periods of time. It is generally considered to be a learning disorder, and many different medications have been created and marketed intended to reduce ADD symptoms and promote concentration.
Similarly, ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This includes issues with:
- The inability to concentrate; and
- Difficulty in sitting still or remaining seated for prolonged periods of time.
ADHD is a mental health disorder characterized by symptoms that are related to learning or focusing. The disorder is generally considered to be a child or adolescent issue. However, although the classic symptoms may not be as clearly present in adults, ADHD does affect adults as well. ADHD can cause issues in a person’s family and/or social life, or their employment.
Adult ADHD makes daily tasks difficult to complete. An example of this would be how a person with adult ADHD may be:
- Unable to prioritize work or deadlines; and/or
- Have trouble multitasking.
It is important to note that in order for adult ADHD to be considered a medical disability, the symptoms must be so severe that they interfere with the person’s ability to perform major life activities. These include, but may not be limited to:
- Learning; or
- Other major functions.
What Is ADD and ADHD Workplace Discrimination?
ADHD and ADD have been associated with poor work performance. Unfortunately, one of the most common workplace disputes in terms of ADHD and ADD in the workplace is workplace 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.
Most states, as well as the federal government, have enacted laws intended to prohibit private employers, organizations, or governments from engaging in discrimination against employees who belong to a protected class. Disability is considered to be a protected class, and adult ADHD is classified as a medical disability (or, more commonly, a learning disability). As such, if an employer fails to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to an employee who has adult ADHD, it could be considered workplace discrimination.
ADD and ADHD harassment can occur in relation to various aspects of employment, including:
- Benefits; and
So Is ADD or ADHD Considered a Disability?
One issue associated with the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD is that there are no clear guidelines as to whether it is considered to be a disability. Some employers refuse to admit that ADD or ADHD are disabilities, given that they are learning disabilities. As such, they may be willing to fire or pass on hiring an otherwise qualified applicant simply because they have stated that they have adult ADHD or ADD.
In order for ADD or ADHD conditions to be classified as a disability for legal purposes, the symptoms must be “serious enough” to limit the person’s major life activities. As previously mentioned, this includes working and learning. Unfortunately, because there are various degrees of ADD and ADHD, some people’s conditions may not be enough to warrant employment discrimination protection under the ADA, or similar acts such as the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
The ADA defines the term “disability” as follows:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities or bodily functions;
- A record of impairment, even if it is not classified as a medical disability; or
- A condition that leads to a person being “regarded as having a disability.”
What If My Rights Have been Violated Due to an ADD and ADHD Condition? How Do I File an ADD and ADHD Workplace Discrimination Complaint?
If you have ADD or ADHD, it is imperative that you are aware of your workplace rights and options if those rights have been violated by your employer. Lawsuits resulting from wrongful termination based on ADD and ADHD have become more commonplace.
Another ADHD discrimination issue includes the denial of employment rights, or denial of benefits. Employment rights are intended to protect the safety and quality of the work environment for all involved. Generally speaking, federal laws and statutes govern employment rights. As such, a violation of these rights could lead to serious legal consequences for employers and any employees who are involved.
If a person’s employment rights have been violated because they have ADD or ADHD, they may be required to file a claim for relief with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). This complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination, so that the EEOC can conduct an investigation into the complaint.
Should the EEOC’s investigation determine that there is reasonable cause to believe the facts of the complaint are true, they will attempt to settle the issue with the parties involved. If that attempt is unsuccessful, the EEOC will likely issue a notice of right to sue. The person facing discrimination may then file a lawsuit in court, based on the workplace discrimination.
What Are Some Other Legal Issues Involved in ADD and ADHD Workplace Discrimination Lawsuits?
Workplace discrimination and wrongful termination are the most common legal issues involved in adult ADD and ADHD lawsuits. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) ensures that those with disabilities are given the same rights and opportunities as those without disabilities. The ADA has determined that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for their disabled employees.
An accommodation is simply a modification or adjustment of some kind. This adjustment is made to the work environment, or to the way in which a job is completed in order to make employment accessible to disabled people. An accommodation might also be a modification or adjustment to the hiring process, such as ensuring that people with disabilities are able to apply for jobs along with non-disabled people.
Reasonable accommodations should be made to the overall work environment, the employee’s work schedule, or company policies and procedures. Some examples of ADD and ADHD workplace accommodations include, but may not be limited to:
- Providing structured breaks;
- Providing a private, quiet workspace;
- Permitting the use of noise cancellation or white noise, such as noise cancellation headphones;
- Uninterrupted work time;
- Providing flexible to-do lists; and/or
- Using assistive technology, including calendars and timers.
The time frame in which a reasonable accommodation must be made differs based on jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions do not obligate an employer to make any accommodations until the disabled employee has requested an accommodation. If the employer believes that an accommodation request is not reasonable, and is unduly burdensome, they should consult an experienced employment lawyer for guidance regarding how to proceed.
Other jurisdictions require the employer to make accommodations preemptively, before a disabled employee requests them. If an employee makes several requests for reasonable accommodations, the employer is not necessarily required to grant each and every one. However, any accommodation that is made would need to allow the disabled person to perform their job and the necessary activities of life in the workplace.
To further complicate the matter, it could violate the ADA to assume an employee has a qualifying disability, or is substantially limited by their impairment. The ADA states that such assumptions could themselves qualify as workplace discrimination. Because of this, it may be risky for an employer to determine that there is a duty to accommodate before an employee first makes a request.
However, it is not a violation of the ADA to request information about a worker’s disability during the hiring process. When information is gathered before making a hire, employers should be able to make preemptive accommodations without violating the ADA.
Do I Need a Lawyer for ADD and ADHD Workplace Discrimination Claims?
If you have experienced employment discrimination because of your ADD or ADHD diagnosis, you should consult with an experienced and local discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.
An attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your legal rights and options according to your specific jurisdiction. They can also help you file a complaint with the EEOC, and pursue a lawsuit against your employer, if necessary.