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Florida State exec sues university after being fired for alcoholism

Earlier this week, we wrote about a Gay couple in Florida that recently settled a discrimination lawsuit with their former employer. The two men allege that they were wrongfully terminated after they disclosed to their employers that they are HIV positive.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal to fire or discriminate against an employee because of his or her disability. This includes diseases such as HIV and AIDS. Recently, a former executive for Florida State University filed his own lawsuit alleging violations of the ADA. He says the university fired him because of his alcoholism.

Despite the stigma surrounding it, alcoholism is a disease. People with alcohol problems often find it hard to keep their jobs because the disease can seriously hinder work performance.

However, in his lawsuit, the man alleges that he was fired despite the fact that he "could perform the essential function of the job he held and [his] alcohol dependence problem did not present a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace."

His attorney added that his client suffered from depression and it was well known among his colleagues that he was "self-medicating with alcohol." Despite this, the man worked for FSU for 28 years as the director of research communications. He also edited the university's Research and Review magazine.

The man alleges that he was fired "without cause" about a month after a coworker filed an internal complaint against him. He believes that the termination was due to his alcohol dependence. He says that because his disease does not impede his work or pose a threat to his colleagues, his termination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Like other addictions, alcohol dependence is largely misunderstood and stigmatized. Addicts are often viewed as weak-willed or otherwise irresponsible. But if someone with alcoholism has excelled at is job for nearly three decades, this should be sufficient proof that the disease does not impede his work. Why should he suddenly be fired for it?

Source: Tallahassee.com, "FSU exec sues over job loss, claims discrimination," Bill Cotterell, Aug. 19, 2011

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