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News Release

Janet Hayes: Dealing with alcoholism in the workplace.

The University of Southern California received a not-so-happy holiday greeting last month.

Former football coach Steve Sarkisian slapped the school with a $12.6 million lawsuit alleging wrongful termination. Sarkisian claims that he is disabled and, rather than accommodating his disability, USC ‘kicked him to the curb.’

What is the alleged disability of the healthy-looking former coach? Alcoholism.

Sarkisian’s lawsuit is a good reminder that dealing with an alcoholic employee can be a legal minefield. Employers must take time to understand what duties are (and are not) owed to that employee.

There is nothing new about Sarkisian’s claim that alcoholism is a legally protected disability. Most courts have held that alcoholism can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Alcoholism, however, is usually defined as a professionally diagnosed medical condition – not a self-diagnosed drinking problem.

Read the full article in the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

Janet S. Hayes

Janet S. Hayes

Janet Hayes, a Shareholder in the Knoxville office, is an advocate for employers and businesses across the state. Her practice is focused on employment and appellate law.

Ms. Hayes has successfully defended all types of employment claims including sexual harassment, retaliatory discharge, discrimination, workers’ compensation, invasion of privacy, wage/hour claims, and denial of benefits.