ADHD Job Rights and Accommodations

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.

A woman working at her desk in a busy office.
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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.

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 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).

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.

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.

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.

4 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. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Basics.

  2. Vrijsen JN, Tendolkar I, Onnink M, et al. ADHD symptoms in healthy adults are associated with stressful life events and negative memory bias. Atten Defic Hyperact Disord. 2018;10(2):151-160. doi:10.1007/s12402-017-0241-x

  3. ADA National Network. What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. Reasonable Accommodations for Employees and Applicants with Disabilities.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.