Did USC Commit Disability Discrimination by Firing Head Coach Steve Sarkisian?

Disabilities can affect anyoneThe firing of Steve Sarkisian as the head coach of the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans has created a discussion about substance abuse and employment laws. According to university officials, Sarkisian had appeared at several events and practices visibly intoxicated. In one instance, Sarkisian appeared in a video at a USC pep rally slurring words and swearing.

University officials granted Sarkisian a leave of absence after several more incidents involving supposed alcohol intoxication occurred. Only one day later, Sarkisian was fired by USC as the head coach of the Trojans. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible USC committed disability discrimination in granting Sarkisian a leave of absence and then firing him one day later.

Alcoholism is considered a disability under the ADA, which means employers must make reasonable accommodations for alcoholic employees should they choose to seek treatment. This does not mean employees can show up drunk every day, as employer policies may prohibit such behavior. However, employers do have ways to accommodate employees who are seeking treatment for alcoholism.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations for Alcoholic Employees?

In many cases, depending on the position, duties and employer, employees with substance abuse problems may seek a leave of absence for counseling or rehabilitation. It is strange USC would grant a leave of absence allowing Steve Sarkisian to treat his alcoholism, only to fire him one day later. If USC fired someone who was attempting to receive treatment for alcoholism, it could be considered a violation of the ADA.

This story has left many questions unanswered, so follow our employment law blog for future updates.

Kesluk, Silverstein & JacobLos Angeles Employment Attorneys