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Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: What should I do if my boss fired me today for asking for time off to go rehab? Can I get fired for seeking treatment for alcoholism? Does my employer have to let me go to rehab because I’m an alcoholic?

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The Cleveland Browns just finished the NFL draft and drafted Cody Kessler in the third round. From a lot of so called NFL experts the Browns passed on a number of higher rated prospects that had flourished in college. In response to more scoffs from media pundits, head coach Hugh Jackson said “trust me.” Kessler, unlike many of the top QBs drafted, had to deal with a lot of upheaval during his time at University Of Southern California (USC), including playing for five different coaches in four years. Many teammates and coached have said that Kessler was the leader through it all that kept the team together through all of the coaches. (Given the Browns history of quickly firing coaches, that may have been a critical skill that was considered in drafting Kessler after all).

One of those coaches filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school for disability discrimination. Steve Sarkisian, former head coach of the USC football team, made headlines for appearing to be intoxicated in an August 22, 2015 pep rally, and again during a game against Arizona State University on September 26, 2015. USC asked Sarkisian to take an indefinite leave of absence on October 11, 2015, but then terminated him the next day. Sakisian sought out legal counsel after USC terminated him and soon after filed suit against USC for wrongful termination. Sarkisian claims that he made USC aware of his alcoholism and desire to seek treatment, while USC has argued that Sarkisian never admitted to having alcoholism and instead blamed his repeated incidents on stress and medication. Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“) and California law, alcoholism is considered a disability so reasonable accommodations must be made for an individual who suffers from alcoholism to seek treatment. Our employment discrimination attorneys have blogged about this before. (See Is Alcoholism A Disability Under The ADA?; Lawyer: Is Drug And Alcohol Addiction Covered By The ADA?; and I Was Fired For Going To AA Meetings. ADA Violation?). Alcoholic employees are entitled to certain rights under the ADA – employer cannot simply fire an employee when the boss finds out that he or she is an alcoholic, and must provide reasonable accommodations, like letting an alcoholic employee have time to attend AA meetings.

However, California law also states the following:

“…Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit an employer from refusing to hire, or discharging an employee who, because of the employee’s current use of alcohol or drugs, is unable to perform his or her duties, or cannot perform the duties in a manner which would not endanger his or her health or safety or the health or safety of others.” 
I lost my job because I’m an alcoholic and needed rehab. What should I do if I was fired while in rehab for alcoholism? Do I have a claim for wrongful termination because my boss fired me when he found out that I am a recovering alcoholic?

The ADA has similar limitations. While the ADA will stop an employer from firing an employee just because that work is an alcoholic, the employer can fire an employee for drinking on the job or no call no showing due to an alcohol drinking binge.

Another interesting wrinkle is that USC claims that Sarkisian has violated a preexisting arbitration agreement by filing a suit based on wrongful termination. Courts generally will favor allowing arbitration because of the opportunity to use an alternative dispute resolution too that is quicker and more cost effective so it will be interesting to see what the court decides to do in this case.  Our employment law lawyers have blogged about this too. (See How Do I Get Out Of My Employer’s Arbitration Clause?; Can I Sue My Job If I Signed An Arbitration Agreement?; and Can My Job Stop Me From Filing An EEOC Charge?).

People often believe that informing your employer about an addiction and the need to get treatment will automatically result in termination. People also fail to realize that there are safeguards, established by both federal and state laws, that were created to encourage people battling with addiction to seek out the proper help they need without having the fear of repercussions. Our employment lawyers know what falls into the category of a disability and how too help. If you or someone you know has been battling with an addiction and the employer refuses to accommodate your desire to get treatment, call and speak to one of our employment discrimination attorneys immediately.

As for Kessler, just like Sarkisian’s wrongful termination and disability discrimination claims, let’s just wait and see what happens.

Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.

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