ADHD Job Rights and Accommodations

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For some people, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may cause struggles at work. This can lead to a distressing experience at times, but there are ways that you can get help and advice.

Struggling With ADHD at Work

Perhaps you have had a verbal warning, 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. Any of these can prompt concern 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 increase your symptoms. Plus, feeling that you are not measuring up despite your best efforts can take a toll on your self-esteem.

The ADA May Help You Out

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. Verywell 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 that 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, the ADA defines a disability. Each person needs to meet this 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. Whetzel suggests that 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 that the noise volume in the office makes it hard for you to focus, you could ask for an accommodation for this particular problem. Your options may include:

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

It's likely that you and your employer can find an accommodation that is both a help to you 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 both essential functions and marginal functions. These are decided by the employer and are usually – though not always – in your job description. 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 a.m. for the first class. However, if you are a computer programmer, arriving at work by 9 a.m. might be a marginal function. In which case, if time management in the morning is one of your ADHD struggles, you might 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 They Would Have to Do It for Everyone.

An employer who is not familiar with ADA and ADAAA might think that they need to make the same concession for everyone. Perhaps having your cell phone on your desk to use a productivity app would be helpful. Does that mean they must 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?

Whetzel says that 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 Denies My 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 and you can learn more from the JAN website.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Basics. National Institute of Mental Health. Revised 2016.

  2. Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. Department of Labor.

  3. Job Accommodations. U.S. Department of Labor.

  4. Asking for Workplace Accommodations. ADHD Weekly. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Published April 18, 2019.

Additional Reading
  • Whetzel M. Job Accommodation Network. Telephone interview.  June 2016.