Ask the Experts

Can My Employer Use ADHD as an Excuse to Fire Me?

You’ve done your best to manage your ADHD at work, but when times are tough at the company, you worry that your attention deficit will put you first on the chopping block. If you feel on the verge of getting fired, don’t panic — here’s how to make sense of your legal rights in the workplace.

Q: “The large corporation I work for is struggling financially, and I am concerned about job security. I disclosed my attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) to HR when I was first hired, several years ago. My immediate boss has tried to accommodate my attention issues over the years, but there have been times when ADHD has interfered with my work. Now I am worried that the company will use my ADHD as grounds to fire me. What protections, if any, do I have?”

Individuals with disabilities aren’t protected from being fired. They are protected under both federal and state laws if they are fired because of their disability, or because they were denied reasonable accommodations and, therefore, could not do their job properly.

If you are fired, your legal recourse depends on the reasons why. You say that your employer provided you with accommodations after you disclosed your ADHD. If you couldn’t do the job, even given appropriate and reasonable accommodations, your employer would have the right to terminate your employment.

So what should you do? Contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or the state or local agency that handles employment discrimination cases. There is no need to file with more than one agency; they “cross refer” to one another. They will investigate the circumstances of your termination, and determine whether your employer acted illegally by terminating you because of your ADHD. If they determine that your firing violated the law, they will conduct mediation. If that fails, they will bring a lawsuit on your behalf, or will authorize you to bring your own lawsuit. I wish you the best of luck.

1 Comments & Reviews

  1. I’m retired now (well, laid off in 2009 and couldn’t find another job), but over the years I worked for several large corporations, medium size companies, and very small companies. All in all, I worked at about 9 companies, and only left 2 by my choice. Several “lay-offs” were legitimate – the economy, cancelled contracts, etc., but several I know darn well that my ADHD was the main reason why I couldn’t maintain the standards they required. Usually it was because I hated doing things like filing and sorting mail, or it would take me too long to do my job. I didn’t know why I had those problems then, but they were the same kind of problems I had in school.

    I never disclosed anything to my employers, namely because I didn’t know what my problem was, but I had some great people I worked with (and for) who helped me a lot, but I usually ended up frustrating them, and myself. But unless you have seniority, if your company is having problems and laying off people, you’ll probably get swept up with the rest – and I doubt there’s much you can do about it.

    Nobody expects to be discriminated against during company upheavals, but you shouldn’t expect special treatment, either. Just always keep your resume up-to-date – and I don’t know if you are required to divulge your personal health issues, unless you are looking for some accommodations – and even then I don’t know if that information should get released, only for those “with a need to know”.

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