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Was Steve Sarkisian wrongully terminated?

The University of Southern California, who fired their football coach, Steve Sarkisian, this past October, is standing by their decision. However, the former coach has a different story to tell and has filed a lawsuit against the school claiming wrongful termination. In his lawsuit, he claims that the Athletic Director “kicked him to the curb” when he should have supported him in seeking treatment for alcoholism.

Sarkisian was allegedly suffering from alcohol dependency, depression and anxiety due to job stress and marital problems. In August, he claims he drank two beers and took some prescribed anxiety medicine before attending a booster event. Due to the alcohol and prescribed medicine, he was slurring and using profanity, to which Haden later threatened to fire him and made him sign a written agreement for weekly visits with a therapist, as well as a promise to apologize for his behavior.

In October, Sarkisian, still having problems, realized he was spinning out of control and left the school early. He claims he called the athletic director to tell him and to ask for time off to get some help, but was rebuked for leaving early. The director then allegedly placed him on leave after instructing him to see a school psychologist. After flying to a treatment facility the next day, Sarkisian saw an email with a letter of termination attached.

The school claims that Sarkisian is not being truthful. A statement issued by the USC general counsel alleges that Sarkisian denied multiple times to school officials that he had an alcohol problem. They claim he also resisted their efforts to help him.

Sarkisian is requesting to be paid the remainder of his contract, $12.6 million, along with other damages. According to his attorney, he has “lost his team, lost his income, lost the job that he loved.” The attorney says he had no choice except to seek justice.

According to California’s labor laws, employers have a responsibility to their employees and “shall reasonably accommodate any employee who wishes to voluntarily enter and participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, provided that this reasonable accommodationdoes not impose an undue hardship on the employer.” In this case, the courts will need to decide which story is the most credible, and if any labor laws have been broken.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “USC calls Sarkisian lawsuit claims ‘patently untrue’,” Nathan Fenno, Dec. 07, 2015

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