Legal Lessons Learned from Steve Sarkisian & USC
Part One: Kick Off
by Stacia Hofmann
Former University of Southern California head football coach Steve Sarkisian’s wrongful termination and breach of contract lawsuit against USC was interesting to me as an attorney and as a member of the Trojan family.
As you may recall, last year, Sarkisian appeared intoxicated at a pre-season booster event, and he was subsequently suspected of being drunk at the USC/Arizona State game and at a team meeting. Reports of Sarkisian’s alcohol use, including while serving as head coach of the University of Washington, surfaced on the Internet.1
USC fired Sarkisian in mid-October 2015. About two months later, Sarkisian filed a lawsuit, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated because of an alcohol dependency disability.2 Before the case got very far, it was moved from the court (where documents and hearings are public information) to private arbitration, per the employment contract between USC and Sarkisian.3 Perhaps the parties will arbitrate the case, but my guess is that a confidential settlement will be reached before it progresses that far. We will likely never know the specifics.
But what if Sarkisian had stayed at University of Washington, and a similar situation had arisen? Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a series of blogposts about the primary issues in Sarkisian’s claims against USC, and how they might be viewed under Washington law.4 I will be discussing at-will vs. contractual employment, arbitration clauses, and protected disabilities in Washington. Join me then and Go Trojans!
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