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Can ADHD qualify as a disability under the ADA?

by Hoyer Law Group, PLLC | Aug 12, 2021 | Employment Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a powerful law that helps protect against disability discrimination within the workplace. It covers a range of different diseases and disabilities, and in some cases can reach to include protection for those who suffer from ADHD.

How common are these types of violations?

We do not have good data on how frequent these types of cases are within the workplace. However, we do know that a case about this form of discrimination is currently moving forward in the court system.

The case involves an electrical engineering professor who filed suit against the Department of Electrical Engineering at Kansas State University stating the university fired him for having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protection against discrimination based on a disability. It states that employers should provide reasonable accommodations when possible.

In this case, the professor states the university failed to provide accommodations. Requested accommodations included reminders for upcoming appointments. Although the employer granted the accommodation, the professor states they rarely followed through, resulting in increased anxiety.

The professor also claims the university passed him up for a promotion. Instead, he states the university chose another, less qualified professor. He claims the reason for the lost promotion was his ADHD.

How can the professor build a strong case?

The burden of proof in these cases is often on the employee. That means the professor must gather as much evidence as possible to build his case. In order to do so, the employee must generally show the following:

  • ·        Qualifying disability. First, that the ADA covers the disability in question.
  • ·        Significant impairment. Next, that the disability impairs one or more major life activities.
  • ·        Ability to do the job. The employee must be able to perform the essential job functions with or without accommodations. In this case, the professor could still teach and perform these duties, he just needed accommodations like meeting reminders to help with other, less essential parts of the job.

Unless an accommodation causes hardship, the ADA generally requires employers to provide the accommodation. Common examples of accepted modifications noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) include a modified work schedule, training programs or equipment. The ADA does not require the employer to lower the quality or quality standards of the position to make the accommodation.

Will the case succeed?

Although it is too early to know how the case will unfold, we do know the EEOC has provided approval for the case. This means the professor has likely met his burden of proof, which is a very strong start.

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