When seeking employment, a person diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder can wonder about the interview process, job training, and can you be fired for being autistic? There are times when social awkwardness and lack of eye contact and what are considered social norms can make interactions with customers and coworkers difficult and uncomfortable.
There are accommodations and support available for the autistic person and their workplace. These can help ease the tension during a job interview, provide resources for training, and help prevent discrimination with group training and autism awareness on the job.
Elizah Dalrymple shared her experience of losing her job. Elizah was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and felt that because of some of what she called quirks, she was fired.
She felt traumatized because she felt that her employer was toxic and abusive toward her. She decided that she wanted to have a meeting with her employers and this is what she said,
“I asked for a meeting to discuss accommodations and changes we could make to the current distribution of work. I created a very detailed list of my current duties and tasks, how they had changed and expanded exponentially during my time there, and why I felt the distribution of work was unbalanced. (It was very autistic of me looking back on it.)”
Another autistic person posted on Reddit about being fired because they are,
“too quiet, don’t make eye contact, seem distracted, and have no filter”.
They go on to talk about what it felt like being fired for their differences, that they felt it was a part of their autism diagnosis. Also, the employer said that they should have disclosed their neurodiversity earlier, which is something an employer is not allowed to say or ask for.
In this article, we are going to discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are going to share what it says, what it protects, what services and resources can be available for the autistic person on the job, and whether or not to share an autism diagnosis with an employer.
Can someone be fired for being autistic?
According to the website, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. As it relates to employment, Title I of the ADA protects the rights of both employees and job seekers. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services. Title IV, which is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.”
Basically, the ADA will protect and has created guidelines that help when the legal rights of a neurodiverse, person with a disability, and/or autistic person experiences discrimination. They make sure that there are reasonable accommodations, training, and resources available to the individual involved and the employers.
The ADA also makes sure that there are equal employment opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities, differing disabilities, and autism spectrum disorder. If someone has experienced autism discrimination, it is recommended to seek legal counsel moving forward.
With that said, a person cannot legally be fired for being autistic. There are states that have ‘at will’ employment which means that the individual and/or employer can end employment at any time without an explanation.
Without direct examples of discrimination or proof of a lack of reasonable accommodations made for the autistic person, it is hard to prove that there was foul play on the part of the employer. The best thing a person can do if they are feeling that they are being discriminated against or need additional resources to fulfill their job requirements is to seek out autism advocacy groups, government services that are ADA specified, and even disability specific lawyers that would know the ADA very well.
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Is it hard to stay employed with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis?
There are autistic adults that feel challenged obtaining and maintaining consistent employment. This can be because of feeling awkward or that their differences don’t flow along with the requirements of their job.
Whether these fears and anxiety are justified, it can cause unnecessary strain on the autistic individuals. The employer or employee can seek any reasonable accommodation that could help them fulfill these job requirements.
There are services, support, training, and other resources readily available for those who need them. These accommodations can help increase the autistic employees’ self esteem and help them provide a higher quality of life for themselves because they have learned the skills necessary to overcome the difficulties that they were experiencing beforehand.
Is it a good idea to disclose an autism diagnosis or other disability to an employer?
This can be a tricky subject because it depends on the individual, the employer, and many other aspects. It is important to remember that an employer cannot ask for a diagnosis or require the knowledge of a person.
One of the benefits of disclosing a diagnosis would be that the employer could have the proper support, training, and reasonable accommodations that the autistic person needs ready and available upon employment. This could make a big difference in job experience.
Disclosing a diagnosis can also make a person feel vulnerable or feel that they open the door for employers to possibly discriminate against the disability that was shared in confidence. It is important to note that because of the ADA, employers cannot legally act in this way.
It would seem that employers are looking for a more diverse workforce. That way they are able to learn about people from different backgrounds and having neurodiverse employees can further this knowledge.
Answering this question is definitely a personal choice and should stay that way. There are going to be people that choose to share their diagnosis and those who do not. Either way is acceptable, especially if the individual has taken all aspects into consideration.
There are plenty of employers that are looking for a culturally diverse and neurodiverse workforce. It is truly beneficial in so many ways.
Some of the points that were made in this article were whether or not someone can be fired because they are autistic or have any other disabilities. Also, whether employment is hard to maintain with autism and if someone should tell their employer about their diagnosis.
There are a lot of aspects that are very personal and depend on the person. It is good to make sure and learn the laws and rights that neurodiverse people with an array of different diagnoses have at a job.
It is also important to know what can be provided through the employer or the employer can check out the services, support, and resources available to make their business friendlier for those with differing abilities.
Dalrymple, E. (2022). One year later: Looking back on getting fired for being autistic, and why work references can be a challenge for autistic people. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/one-year-later-looking-back-getting-fired-being-why-work-dalrymple/
US Department of Labor. Americans with Disabilities Act. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/ada#:~:text=The%20Americans%20with%20Disabilities%20Act,local%20government’%20programs%20and%20services.
Donnesa McPherson, AAS