The firing of Steve Sarkisian as football coach at the University of Southern California provides a case study of how an employer is to handle alcohol-related issues with its employees. Sarkisian had reportedly made one or more public appearances while appearing intoxicated, and he had failed to attend a practice session.
The university first offered him a leave of absence, but then fired him the very next day as new reports were surfacing of alcohol-related issues in his previous coaching job at the University of Washington.
Alcohol dependency qualifies as a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act and most state disability discrimination laws. As with other disabilities, employers must consider reasonable accommodations for employees afflicted with a disability. A leave of absence is a recognized reasonable accommodation for employees unable to perform their job duties while seeking treatment or convalescing.
USC seemed to be following that script until it abruptly fired the coach. Obviously, he had not had time to pursue treatment for alcohol dependency before being fired. No action has been filed by Sarkisian and one may never be filed. The world of college athletics is a far cry from the normal workplaces in which most people work.
Employees with alcohol dependency problems are entitled to consideration for reasonable accommodation that can allow them to continue to work despite their dependency. That does not mean that an employee can report to work under the influence of alcohol or have other work related deficiencies resulting from alcohol use. Normally, work-related problems arise that are suspected of being alcohol-related and the employer provides the employee an opportunity to seek treatment as an accommodation.
If the employee refuses to seek treatment or otherwise remediate his problem and continues to violate employer standards, such as reporting to work impaired or failing to meet performance expectations, he can be terminated notwithstanding the dependency. Nothing says that an employee has a right to be a substandard employee because of an alcohol addiction. That being said, an employer must treat all employees with similar issues in the same manner. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with an experienced discrimination lawyer in Chico.
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