Although the Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically mention OCD, it does apply to individuals with the disorder.
That being said, it is a law and therefore can be interpreted in many ways. The legal statute states, “The ADA does not list any specific disabilities at all. Rather, it provides a loose definition of disability, which allows the attorneys and courts to make the determination on a case by-case basis.” Disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” This is broken into a two-part test:
1. Is the person impaired?
2. Does the impairment substantially limit a major life activity?
Although OCD might easily meet the criterion in number 1, number 2 is subject to interpretation by lawyers, employers, and the court system. The key words are “substantially” and “major.” If it’s not clearly a major life activity, or the limitations do not appear to be substantial, you’re probably not going to be covered.
Major life activities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Substantial limitation, according to the EEOC, is defined as “significantly restricted in the ability to perform either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as compared to the average person having comparable training, skills and abilities.” The inability to perform a single, particular job does not constitute a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working.
As far as employment discrimination goes, a person must be qualified to perform the job duties in order to be protected by ADA. This basically means that a person must satisfy the employer’s job requirements (such as education, experience, skill set, licenses, and so on) and must be able to perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations can also be subject to interpretation by lawyers, employers, and the courts. Some potential accommodations for anxiety disorders and OCD are flexible scheduling, extra leave, extra time to learn new tasks or information, added partitions to help concentration, reduction of distractions (e.g., co-workers’ radios), or telecommuting.
A particular section of the EEOC’s website, is a great resource for information and interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would be best to consult a lawyer who specializes in disability cases to see just how the ADA may apply to your specific case of OCD.