An arbitrator ruled on Monday that the University of Southern California doesn’t owe Steve Sarkisian, its former football coach, anything in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, according to TMZ Sports.
Sarkisian, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, sued USC for $30 million after he was fired in 2015. Sarkisian claimed that he was “kicked to the curb” and fired for alcoholism, instead of the school helping him with his disability.
An arbitrator denied all of Sarkisian’s claims, and said that California disability laws — which include alcoholism — do “not insulate the failure to control a controllable disability nor afford an employee a second chance to control a disability in the future.” The arbitrator also found that Sarkisian wasn’t “terminated on the basis of any disability,” but instead for misconduct which breached his contract with the university.
Sarkisian first got into trouble at USC after he went on a “booze-filled rant” at a Salute To Troy event in August 2015. USC then made Sarkisian take counseling sessions, though he denied then that he was an alcoholic and that his behavior at the event was due to a bad reaction from prescription pills and beer.
TMZ reported that, along with the counseling sessions and an apology for his behavior, he signed a “last-chance agreement,” which warned that any further incidents would “constitute immediate termination for cause.”
Sarkisian was fired in October 2015, just months later, after he showed up inebriated to multiple team meetings. Multiple sources told ESPN then that he “appeared not normal” and was not allowed to come to practice. One player even texted ESPN that Sarkisian “showed up lit to meetings again today.” Staff members also suspected that he was under the influence during their game against Arizona State that season.
Because Sarkisian initially denied his alcoholism to the school, the arbitrator ruled that he “must bear sole responsibility for having actively concealed from USC his claimed disabilities.”
Sarkisian will enter his second season as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator this fall, a job he took after a brief stint on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama during the 2016-17 season.
Sarkisian has spoken publicly about his battle with alcoholism since accepting the job with the Falcons last year, announcing that he is sober and had completed “intensive” treatment.
“Everybody has issues they have to deal with, some physical, some mental, whatever it may be,” Sarkisian said in February 2017, via the Los Angeles Times. “This happens to be an issue of mine that I work on daily. It’s important to me so I can be the best person, the best father, the best coach I can be. I’m diligent about that.”
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