Learning that a worker has ADHD raises challenging questions for employers, especially if an employee asks for accommodations. Are you supposed to overlook missed deadlines, because their condition makes it difficult for them to focus? Do you have the right to expect the same performance from them as from everyone else? What responsibilities do you owe an employee with ADHD?
Fortunately for you, there are some guidelines to follow. A number of laws around the globe provide general guidance about accommodating people with disabilities, including ADHD.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, including ADHD. This law applies to all private businesses in the United States that employ more than 15 people. That being said, an employee must do more than disclose an ADHD diagnosis in order to obtain protection under this law. Employees must also demonstrate how the disability substantially impairs one or more major life activities, and that they are otherwise qualified to perform the job. This article explains the issues in more detail.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to U.S. government agencies or any programs or activities that receive federal funding. 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.
Both the ADA and Section 504 parallel each other in defining disability. However, there are differences in their function. This article provides more detail about both anti-discrimination laws.
State and Local Laws
In addition to federal laws, U.S. employers may also find guidance by looking into relevant state or local nondiscrimination laws that may apply. This will help you understand and fulfill any legal responsibilities you may have toward an employee who has ADHD.
The Ontario Human Rights Code is a broad law providing equal rights and opportunities to people living within this province of Canada. It applies to the social areas of employment, housing, goods, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations. It also considers mental health issues and other “invisible” disorders, like ADHD, to be disabilities. This brochure provides an overview for employees.
The Equality Act 2010 gives people with disabilities the right to be protected from discrimination in employment. Employers must ensure that they do not discriminate against people because of a disability and without reasonable justification. There has been at least one court decision in which ADHD was not considered to be a disability under the act. That ruling was being appealed in 2016.
This page provides additional guidance for employers.
We would like to include information about the legal rights and responsibilities employers have toward people with ADHD in other countries around the globe. This information will be added as it becomes available.