Did you miss me last week? Or even notice I was gone? Well, either way, my absence was for a good reason. I was traveling to NJ for a special event. My grandson, Connor, turned two last weekend, and Papa had to be there to celebrate. Although I really enjoy my time with all of you each week, sometimes a papa’s gotta do what a papa’s gotta do!
If you recall, in my last Fridays with Frank I bared my soul to you about the impact that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) has had on my life. Both personally and professionally. (I know, it really explains a lot!)
Clearly, I am not alone. It’s estimated that four percent of adults in the U.S. have ADHD. However, less than 20 percent have been diagnosed, and fewer still are treated. Although a significant number of people have managed to turn the challenges of ADHD around to their advantage, many more struggle with ADHD-related issues every day. (“Hey Frank, can we move this along? Remember, it’s Valentine’s Day, and a lot of us have plans.”)
The negative impact on the individual is undeniable. But, what about the implications for the workplace? As you can imagine, ADHD has a significant, and often negative, impact there as well. That’s why it’s increasingly important for employers to gain a greater understanding of ADHD so they can recognize the signs in their employees.
Employees with ADHD can exhibit a variety of behaviors that negatively impact their performance, their co-workers, and, ultimately, the workplace in general. These behaviors often include interpersonal conflicts, tardiness, high absenteeism, excessive errors, a resistance or inability to change, and a lack of dependability. Typically, the consequences include verbal and written warnings, suspension, and eventually termination of their employment. But what if the signs were recognized early? Could the issues be addressed and mitigated for everyone’s benefit? Often, the answer is, YES!
Fortunately, a majority of ADHD symptoms—and their associated behaviors—can be alleviated with the appropriate treatment and accommodations. Although every individual’s needs are different, accommodations may include a quiet workspace or white-noise earphones to reduce distractions; training on how to best use calendars and notes to track deadlines; written directions, instructions, and training materials for easy reference; dividing assignments or tasks into smaller, manageable sizes; more time for completing work, or a modified work schedule to match the employee’s peak periods of focus and attention; a system of peer reviews for highly detailed work; and, for an employee with hyperactivity, intermittent breaks to move between projects or tasks.
Finally, for those employers who find it perplexing to believe ADHD is sufficiently debilitating to warrant accommodations, I offer the following:
- According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) of 2008 defines the term “disability” as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability.”
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) states that the term “‘substantially limits‘ is to be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.”
- The EEOC also states that “an impairment does not need to prevent or severely or significantly restrict a major life activity to be considered ‘substantially limiting.'”
It’s clear that ADHD may be regarded as a disability under the ADAAA, or similar state law. What’s more, ADHD may be considered a serious health condition covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’m not an attorney. But, based on my experience, denying reasonable accommodations to employees with ADHD has the potential to create significant liability (read as “cha-ching $$$!). Wouldn’t it be far better for everyone if you sat down with the employee, engaged in a good old-fashioned “interactive process,” and worked something out? I thought you’d see it my way.
That’s a wrap on another Fridays with Frank. Thanks for spending a small part of your day with me, and have a great weekend!
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Please feel free to contact Frank at email@example.com, or 585-380-1566 with questions or for more information.
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute a legal opinion, and is not legal advice. The facts of each situation should be considered and analyzed individually. Therefore, you should always consult with competent employment counsel regarding any issues discussed here.
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