ADHD as a disability at work

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2023 | Disability Discrimination |

In California, living with ADHD can create substantial challenges in the workplace. This disability is often invisible, yet it creates many emotional, professional and financial consequences for employees and employers. These impacts emphasize the need for increased awareness and informed strategies to reduce the adverse effects in the workplace.

A recent case

In McCray v. WestRock Services LLC, Lowry McCray, an employee of the cardboard packaging company, alleged that he was terminated unfairly due to his mental disability. He claimed the company also failed to address his discrimination-related complaints.

He accused WestRock of failing to accommodate his disability, not engaging in an interactive process with him and neglecting to take any actions to prevent disability discrimination. He also claimed his firing was his employer’s retaliation for taking medical leave.

The jury awarded Mr. McCray $9.5 million as follows:

  • $1.5 million for future economic loss
  • $1.5 million for past non-economic loss
  • $1.0 million for future non-economic loss
  • $10k for past economic compensatory damages
  • $5.451 million for punitive damages due to the company’s malicious behavior

ADHD’s impact on employees

Unmanaged ADHD can lead to discrimination because of the disability’s symptoms, causing individuals to lose an average of $8,900 to $15,400 in wages each year. It can also cause them to lose up to three weeks of workdays annually, negatively impacting their productivity.

Approximately 24% of employees on long-term sick leave for stress-related illnesses meet the ADHD criteria, highlighting the connection between stress-related illnesses and ADHD. These individuals also suffer a 60% higher risk of termination, are 30% more likely to have chronic unemployment and are three times more likely to quit jobs on impulse.

Impact on employers

ADHD-related disability symptoms, such as interpersonal conflicts and tardiness, can hinder organizational performance. Turnover due to ADHD can impact employees and employers negatively because of the constant need to retrain and acclimate to new cultures. Individuals with ADHD typically develop high resilience, humor and other unique skills but often remain underutilized at work, which is a loss for the employees and their organizations.

Productivity and burnout

Workers with untreated ADHD deal with distraction and difficulty in planning and organization. Other challenges include procrastination, emotional sensitivity and impulsivity, which significantly affect an individual’s productivity at work. Many workers with untreated ADHD suffer from burnout, highlighting the need for employees and employers to develop strategies and organizational skills to manage stressors at work.

Employers can reap benefits from accommodating employees with ADHD. With awareness and appropriate strategies, employees with ADHD can thrive and contribute positively at work.