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Working from Home with ADHD - How to Get an ADA Exemption

Updated: May 13

People crowded at tables trying to work in a noisy environment

Cartoons and TV shows used to make fun of the cubicles and tiny offices employees used to contend with. Over time, many companies moved from individual offices to warehouse-style rooms where everyone works together at Hogwarts-style tables. For the most extroverted, grounded people, that kind of situation enlivens and inspires. However, with so much noise and movement, people with sensory disabilities can become physically and mentally ill. Learn how to request a work-from-home option to make your work experience more positive and healthy.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensures equal opportunities in various aspects of life, including employment. If you have ADHD and find it challenging to work in a crowded, noisy office environment, you may be eligible for an ADA exemption to work from home. This blog will guide you through the steps to secure such an exemption and explain why the ADA supports this accommodation.

Understanding ADHD and Its Impact on Work

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects an individual's ability to focus, control impulses, and manage time effectively. In a crowded and noisy office setting, individuals with ADHD may experience heightened distractions, increased stress levels, and reduced productivity, leading to a negative impact on their job performance and well-being.

Step 1: Obtain a Professional Diagnosis

To initiate the process of obtaining an ADA exemption, you need a formal diagnosis of ADHD from a qualified healthcare professional. This diagnosis will serve as essential documentation of your disability and demonstrate the need for workplace accommodations.

Specific Example: Sarah's Struggles in the Office

Sarah, a 30-year-old marketing professional, has been diagnosed with ADHD. Despite her talent and dedication to her work, she often finds it challenging to focus in her noisy and busy office. This results in missed deadlines, overlooked details and increased anxiety, affecting both her performance and self-esteem.

Step 2: Understand ADA's Definition of Disability

The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. In the case of ADHD, it qualifies as a disability under this definition. The law protects individuals with ADHD from discrimination and entitles them to reasonable accommodations to perform their job effectively.

Step 3: Inform Your Employer and Human Resources

Once you have a formal diagnosis and understand your rights under the ADA, schedule a meeting with your employer or the human resources department to discuss your ADHD and the challenges you face in the office environment. Be prepared to provide them with relevant medical documentation to support your case.

Specific Example: Sarah's Conversation with HR

Sarah scheduled a meeting with her HR representative and shared her ADHD diagnosis. She explained how the office environment's noise and constant interruptions hindered her productivity and overall performance. Sarah offered to provide medical documentation to substantiate her condition.

Step 4: Request Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities unless doing so would create an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to the work environment that enables the individual to perform their job effectively.

Specific Example: Sarah's Request for Remote Work

Sarah proposed the idea of working from home as a reasonable accommodation to alleviate the challenges she faced in the office. She emphasized that working in a quiet, familiar environment would allow her to concentrate better, improve her productivity, and ultimately benefit the company.

Step 5: Engage in an Interactive Process

Once you have made your request, your employer should engage in an interactive process to determine the appropriate accommodation. This process involves an open dialogue between you and your employer to explore potential options and identify the most suitable arrangement.

Specific Example: Sarah's Collaboration with HR

Sarah's HR representative acknowledged her request and initiated the interactive process. They discussed various options, including flexible work hours, noise-cancellation headphones, and working from home. Sarah's employer agreed to her request for remote work, understanding that it was a reasonable accommodation.

Why the ADA Allows Working from Home as an Accommodation for ADHD

The ADA allows working from home as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with ADHD because it directly addresses the challenges they face in a crowded, noisy office environment. The ADA's overarching goal is to promote equal opportunities and level the playing field for employees with disabilities. By providing the flexibility to work from home, employers can foster an inclusive workplace where individuals with ADHD can thrive and contribute effectively to the organization.

Better Work When You Work From Home: How to Get an ADA Exemption

If you have ADHD and struggle to work in a crowded, noisy office environment, the ADA provides you with the opportunity to request reasonable accommodations, including the option to work from home. By following the steps outlined in this blog and engaging in an open dialogue with your employer, you can pursue a more suitable work arrangement that allows you to reach your full potential and succeed in your career. Remember, the ADA is there to protect your rights and ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workplace.


This article was written using ChatGPT. Kathryn Hauer, a Certified Financial Planner ™, adjunct professor, and financial literacy educator has written numerous articles and several books.

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