The former coach of the University of South Carolina’s Trojans, Steve Sarkisian, has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination against USC for allegedly firing him unlawfully for an alcohol disability. In this lawsuit, Sarkisian is asking for more than $30,000,000 after claiming to be a victim of wrongful termination. He was terminated via email whilst on a leave of absence from the university. Alcoholism, considered by many courts to be a disability should not make anyone a target for discrimination. Sarkisian claims to have emerged from rehab ready and able to return to work.
What are Protected Classes?
It is unfortunate to note that in many states workers are considered at-will employees and can consequently be fired for almost any reason or no reason at all. However, there is something called a protected class that impedes employers from firing its workers due to certain characteristics they possess. The characteristics of a protected class can include, race, religion, gender, national origin, age, pregnancy and disability. Individual states can also add other protected classes. Although Sarkisian’s case was filed in California, New York City has similar laws protecting those suffering from alcoholism or substance addiction from wrongful termination.
What can be done?
If you qualify as having a disability, it is unlawful for an employer to take any adverse employment action against you based solely on your disability, especially if the result is a wrongful termination. In fact, an employer is obligated to provide you with a “reasonable accommodation”, upon your request, to assist you in the performance of your employment responsibilities. If you are unsure whether you qualify as having a “disability”, or if your employer has taken an adverse action against you or failed to provide you with a reasonable accommodation, we advise you to contact our wrongful termination attorneys.