Former USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian has sued the institution for his dismissal. Interestingly, the coach, who had an acute drinking problem, may have the law on his side.
Following his unceremonious dismissal from the Trojans, 41-year-old Steve Sarkisian is suing the university and seeking more than $30 million, reported TMZ Sports. What makes the lawsuit interesting is the provision in the California law. Sarkisian claims he was unfairly dismissed, and his attorney states USC broke the law when it fired Sarkisian. According to California state law, alcoholism is identified as a disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, alcoholism has been classified as a disability.
This means Sarkisian had a disability and USC fired a person with a disability, instead of addressing the matter, said his attorney, Alan Loewinsohn.
“Alcoholism is a recognized disability under California law. So firing somebody because of that disability is against the law. “
The 31-page lawsuit also mentions that the ex-coach is sober after completing treatment and wants to return to coaching. The suit claims it was the stress of the job, combined with Sarkisian’s divorce, which led to depression and “furthered his dependence on alcohol.” The complaint also mentions Sarkisian’s first public account of the events that led to his ouster after less than two years as USC’s head coach. The most critical details are the events of the chaotic final 24 hours, reported Bleacher Report.
Steve Sarkisian had been drinking the night before a team meeting October 11. The suit claims he didn’t sleep well that night. The next day, shortly before the meeting that was scheduled for 11 a.m., Sarkisian took unspecified prescription medication. The combined effect was quite bad, as the coach clearly didn’t seem like himself. This prompted USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to fire Sarkisian via email. After many small confrontations and dialogues, the coach sued the school over his dismissal.
The lawsuit categorically mentions, “That weekend… Sarkisian began to finally come to grips with the fact that he had a problem with alcohol, needed serious help and needed it now.”
However, USC general counsel Carol Mauch Amir has a much different outlook and blasted the claims, saying, “Much of what is stated in the lawsuit… is patently untrue. The record will show that Mr. Sarkisian repeatedly denied to university officials that he had a problem with alcohol, never asked for time off to get help and resisted university efforts to provide him with help.”
USC response to the Sark lawsuit. pic.twitter.com/EbcWWHxSsl
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) December 8, 2015
It is an undeniable fact that Steve Sarkisian suffered from alcohol abuse and had been taking prescription medication for anxiety and depression. His condition worsened in the three days after his team’s loss to the University of Washington, claims the lawsuit. However, his condition came to light during the “Salute to Troy” booster event in August, reported MSN. Just two light beers and a few pills for anxiety ensured the ex-coach slurred while addressing the crowd, insulted his team’s opponents, and uttered a profanity into the public address system.
Thereafter, Haden mandated Sarkisian sign a letter agreeing to apologize for his behavior, meet weekly with a therapist at USC, and avoid future situations that could embarrass the school, reported the Los Angeles Times.
It’s interesting to note that at a news conference after the slurred speech, Sarkisian mentioned he “didn’t think” he had a drinking problem, but he “expected to find out through the counseling.”
The lawsuit mentions that since the speech, Sarkisian “had no further alcohol-related incidents,” that is, until the match-day. It further stated that the USC management, particularly Haden, wasn’t accommodating towards Sarkisian. Haden had put Sarkisian on indefinite leave, but the psychologist’s drugs only made matters worse, which eventually caused the abnormal behavior and ultimately led to Sarkisian’s dismissal through an email.
[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]