PELRAS Update | August 2023 – Hiring and Retention of Neurodiverse Employees

Tiffany R. Allen, Esq., Campbell Durrant, P.C. | August 2023

Fluctuations in employment trends is a story as old as time. However, current shifts in the employment landscape resulting from employees’ desire for greater flexibility have had a longer lasting impact than expected. In response, employers have been revamping their recruitment efforts to answer for a shrinking workforce. However, just as employers are finding innovative methods to recruit qualified candidates, there is a demographic of prospective employees that remains overlooked: neurodivergent individuals.

Neurodivergence is more commonly associated with individuals on the autism spectrum, but it also includes persons with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) among other cognitive differences. Studies show that neurodiverse employees are 30% more productive than their neurotypical counterparts; however, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is at least 30%. Employers dedicated to improving its diversity efforts find that the inclusion of neurodivergent employees in the workforce can have a positive effect not only on productivity but also employee morale, problem solving, and turnover.

The success of neurodivergent employees in professional roles depends on whether the employer has inclusive hiring and retention practices. Employers are aware of their duty to adhere to the anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, focused recruiting efforts such as modified job descriptions and a skill-based interview process are permissible under the ADA and can help attract neurodivergent employees. Hiring managers should receive training in the best practices for interviewing individuals with different communication styles, especially if an applicant voluntarily identifies as neurodivergent during the process. Additional efforts such as requiring candidates to complete a skills assessment, or undergoing training to identify an employee’s soft skills, can yield positive results in the workplace.  

For more information about recruiting and retaining neurodivergent, employers are encouraged to contact labor counsel or seek other resources such as the Job Accommodation Network.