Could Disclosing My ADHD at Work Protect Me from Getting Fired?

Q:

“I was fired from my last two jobs. Could I have avoided this if I had disclosed my ADD and had been protected under the disabilities act?”

ADDitude contributor Robert Tudisco is a practicing attorney with ADHD and an expert on special education law and disability advocacy.
A:

There is no easy answer to your question. In order for an adult to seek protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, he must disclose his disability to qualify for services and/or accommodations.

To be protected under the ADA, you must work for a company with at least 15 employees. Specific accommodations, determined on a case-by-case basis, must be deemed reasonable and not financially prohibitive to the employer.

While disclosing your disability will protect you under the law, it isn’t always a wise decision. Not all employers are positive or knowledgeable about ADHD, and employees don’t want their boss thinking they’re making excuses.

Depending on the employer and the competitive nature of the work, an employee might find herself passed over for advancement or may be disciplined by management. The law assumes that employees are “hired at will,” which means that they can be fired for nonperformance. An employee may be fired for many reasons, so it may be difficult to prove that you were treated unfairly because of your disability.

Note: ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information. While comments are appreciated, due to the high volume of inquiries we receive, there is no guarantee that either ADDitude or the expert will respond to follow-up questions.

Since Robert Tudisco was diagnosed with ADHD, he has researched and written extensively on the subject of special education law and disability advocacy, and now specializes in the area as a practicing attorney. He is a former Executive Director of the Edge Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides specialized coaches for students with ADHD and Executive Functioning Impairment. He has served on the National Board of Directors of CHADD and is a former Vice President of ADDA. He is a frequent resource for the media, including CBS News, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, ABC News, The BBC, The Today Show, CNN, USA Today, and The Seattle Times.

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