And the Other Shoe Drops – Steve Sarkisian Sues USC for Disability Discrimination

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This morning former USC football coach Steve Sarkisian filed suit in California, seeking $30.1 million in damages, alleging that his former employer failed to accommodate a disability recognized under California law, alcoholism.   A copy of the Complaint can be found here.

Sarkisian alleges that USC knew that he was suffering from alcoholism, and that he in fact requested a leave of absence to seek treatment for that condition.  According to the Complaint, USC failed to engage in the required interactive process to determine if there were reasonable accommodations available, failed to accommodate his request for leave even though an interim coach was readily available, discriminated against him on the basis of a recognized disability, wrongfully disclosed confidential medical information to the public, and otherwise breached Sarkisian’s contracts with USC and the termination provisions requiring written notice.

Note than unlike our discussion of a recent termination case involving marijuana, alcohol is not an illegal controlled substance under federal law.

This situation highlights the fact that terminating an employee with substance abuse issues can be fraught with liability exposure.  The Employment Law Group at Helsell Fetterman is here to help you make the right decisions when you are faced with this difficult question.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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