All people have the right to basic employment protections, and equal opportunities under law, regardless of race, gender, religion, disability or any other characteristic. Discrimination at work happens. It can happen to anyone.
A 2022 report from NASDAQ shows that 55% U.S. employees have experienced discrimination on the job, while 61% have witnessed it happen to others. 1 Discrimination is difficult to spot and even harder to correct. It is often up to the victim to identify signs of unfair treatment by their boss, coworker, and potential employer. Employees with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem may feel ashamed or discouraged from speaking out.
Recent ADDitude reader panels found that ADHD sufferers have been bullied, demotivated, and even terminated because of their ADHD symptoms. Some people didn’t realize why they had difficulty working at work until later in their lives. Others claimed they were able to fulfill their duties well, but were penalized for disclosing their disorder.
Are you a victim of workplace discrimination? Have you been denied accommodations or have you lost your job because of ADHD symptoms? Have you sought legal counsel? Please let us know by commenting below.
“[I’ve experienced] mostly microaggressions or things that you aren’t sure about. My forgetfulness is often exploited — such as vacation days and reimbursements that I don’t claim and no one reminded me. “I have more seniority than any other person, but I am often getting responsibilities removed for no apparent reason, while others get new opportunities without me asking.” Amy, Pennsylvania
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“I was asked by my doctor to resign due to my poor memory and slow processing speed. I was unaware that I had ADHD. I took a three month leave, was diagnosed and began working with a coach. Because we needed the income, I was offered the lower job. I had been hired by someone a year before. Although it was embarrassing, it made me proud of the strength of my character and courage to face the situation head-on. Lisa, Colorado
“[The discrimination] was my experience before being diagnosed. The overwhelming job, fear, humiliation and depression were all too much. I couldn’t function well because of this. My general practitioner blamed stress for my later resignation. I was going to seek legal counsel, but I felt it was me who was fundamentally incapable of doing what others seemed to do. I was ashamed of myself. “I was afraid of being shamed more so I decided not to pursue legal action.” — Jules
“I didn’t know I had ADHD until recently. As an auditor, I was constantly missing small things and was eventually forced to quit. My current job as an accountant required me to use the most colorful spreadsheets to compensate. Since I was diagnosed and treated, I don’t need to use as many colorful spreadsheets. I also make far fewer mistakes. It has been life-changing!” — Sara
“I was fired after I failed to manage a significant increase in responsibility areas; I felt overwhelmed and fragmented.” I filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination, and the courts awarded me a settlement.” — An ADDitude reader
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“I was bullied at work, but I didn’t know I had ADD.” I was also precocious. I became a nurse at the age of 19. Some of the problems I faced were due to my young age and surrounded by older workers. I wouldn’t be diagnosed with ADD for another 18 year.” Cindy, Florida
“After [sharing] was diagnosed, all my job responsibilities were eliminated. After being a senior teacher for 20 many years, I was promoted to substitute teacher. My students received excellent grades and all observed lessons were graded highly. “I had to file legal action and reached a settlement.” Chris, London
“I was told by the top manager of a neurodevelopmental child’s service — responsible to assessing and treating children diagnosed with ADHD — that I shouldn’t be a nurse if my ADHD is present and should seek a job that doesn’t require (reasonable adjustments).” — Sara, UK
“Unfortunately, I lost a few jobs because of my excessive tardiness and inability to complete tasks on time. “I didn’t pursue legal action because I didn’t know I had ADHD or that it was protected disability.” Christina, Louisiana
“I was diagnosed with 2021 in the age of 57.. My employer, with whom I have worked 10 for years, couldn’t grasp some of the implications of ADHD in the workplace. “I’m still there, and am finally making progress in this regard, after 18 month.” — An ADDitude reader
“In college, before I was diagnosed, I had a desk job as an operator for a pest control firm. This was pre-Internet. The job required the user to enter addresses that had been given by the client over the telephone into the schedule. Jennifer, Missouri. “After multiple instances of incorrect or transposed street numbers, I was fired.”
“I am an ADHD manager who is open to talking about disabilities. I am a bit of an anomaly.” “I’m certain I’ve been overlooked for promotions because it was assumed that I would be disorganized and flighty.” — An ADDitude reader
“I am currently in the UK, and I have disclosed [my ADHD] information to two employers. They were both supportive and understanding in principle. However, I must be the one to educate myself about my options and advocate on my behalf. It’s difficult to do.” — Meg
“I’m uncomfortable sharing my ADHD diagnosis at work. I work in entertainment, and most of us have ADHD!” However, I was penalized for ADHD-related things. For example, having trouble with short-term memory or in-person recall.
“I worked as a technician on an ICU unit when I was in nursing. Some mean girls complained that I was not fast enough. My boss said I was scattered and asked me if I had ADHD. After I revealed my ADHD, I was placed on a work plan. “I eventually left,” Christina, Massachusetts
Next steps for ADHD and Discrimination at Work
Download: The Free ADHD Wellbeing Guide
Learn about your rights to ADHD accommodations at work
Read: The Real-Life Rewards and Risks of Disclosing ADHD At Work
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1Schmidt C. (2022, March 2. 6 statistics to help you understand the extent of discrimination at work. Nasdaq. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/6-statistics-to-better-understand-the-extent-of-discrimination-in-the-workplace