Steve Sarkisian sues USC over his firing, claiming school didn’t accommodate his disability

Is this the type of man you would want commanding your football team? Would you want your son to play for this guy?

What kind of lawyers would take such a case?

REPORT: Former USC coach Steve Sarkisian has filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that the school broke the law for firing him without allowing him to seek treatment for alcoholism, which is defined as a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit claims that “instead of accommodating Steve Sarkisian’s disability, USC kicked him to the curb,” and that USC failed to follow California law, which requires it to make a “reasonable accommodation” of Sarkisian’s request for time off to get help.

USC fired Sarkisian “with cause” after athletic director Pat Haden said Sarkisian showed up to a team meeting “not healthy.” That came after other allegations that Sarkisian had been drunk on the job. Haden said he sent Sarkisian home after that.

However, Sarkisian says he asked for time off to get help for his alcoholism and was not given the time to do that.

On October 11, 2015, Mr. Sarkisian pleaded with his boss Pat Haden, the athletic director, to give him time off to get the help he needed. Rather than express any concern or willingness to accommodate this request from a man whose history with USC goes back 23 years to his days as a student-athlete, Haden’s immediate response was to derisively repeat the phrase “Unbelievable.” Shortly thereafter, Haden called back and placed Mr. Sarkisian on indefinite leave. Less than 24 hours later, while Mr. Sarkisian was on a plane travelling (sic) to get the help he needed, Haden notified Mr. Sarkisian by email that he had been fired.

The suit says that USC did not fire Sarkisian with cause, and thus owes him $12.6 million under his contract, as well as other damages for the “mental anguish” he underwent following the incident.

Sarkisian allegedly showed up drunk to a meeting. The lawsuit claims that is not the case. The suit claims he did not “appear to be normal” because he took medication for anxiety and depression — conditions that worsened after USC’s record fell to 3-2 on Oct. 8 — that morning that affected him due to drinking the night before.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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