If you think that people with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) have certain rights that protect them in the workplace, you're absolutely correct. But just what are these rights? How do you make the most of them? Carl Sherman, Ph.D., put these and other questions to Robin Bond, a Philadelphia-based attorney, who has more than a decade of experience in employment law, and who serves as an advisor to the national Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
What protections exist for adults with ADD?
For adults, the basic protection is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. This federal law, enacted in 1990, forbids companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating against disabled workers and requires these companies to make accommodations for these workers. These provisions may apply to some people with ADD.
Suppose I work for a company that has fewer than 15 employees. Do I have any rights?
Possibly, but only under state anti-discrimination laws. In Pennsylvania, for example, you can sue if the company employs four or more people. In other states, there may not be much you can do to protect yourself.
You say that the ADA applies to "some people" with ADD. How can I tell if I'm one?
Legally, "disability" means a physical or mental condition that significantly limits a major life activity - in this case, work. So the key question is how profoundly you're affected by ADD. If your symptoms are well controlled, you probably aren't disabled, in the legal sense. But if distractibility, poor time management, or other symptoms make it hard for you to work, you may be legally disabled.
It's not enough for a physician or psychologist to give you a formal diagnosis of ADD. He or she must indicate that your symptoms are severe enough to be considered disabling. If you meet these conditions, your employer is obligated by the ADA to talk with you about how the condition affects your ability to work, and to consider providing accommodations that will enable you to do your job.
So my boss has to do whatever it takes to make me able to work?
Not quite. The law requires reasonable accommodations. These are things that don't pose an undue hardship to the employer - things that aren't outrageously expensive or burdensome to the business.