Gambling Addiction Not a Disability

Employers don't have to provide "reasonable accommodations" for employees with serious mental conditions that Congress deems "improper or immoral." Boardman Law Firm's attorney Bob Gregg explains that and more in this legal roundup.

Plaintiff runs afoul of the “sin exceptions.” An employee of a defense contractor developed a gambling addiction. He failed to pay $30,000 in casino debts and was arrested for larceny. He failed to inform the company of the arrest, as required by company policy and government contract. When he finally came clean about the arrest and gambling issue, he was fired for failure to follow the policy. He sued for disability discrimination, claiming that major depression was his disability and gambling was a manifestation of that condition. The ADA contains exclusions for several conditions that Congress viewed as “improper or immoral.” Even if they are serious mental conditions, they are specifically placed outside the ADA’s requirements for reasonable accommodation or other protections. Compulsive gambling is one of these “sin exceptions.” The court rejected the “gambling as a manifestation of depression” plea as an unsubstantiated effort to work around the exception. It dismissed the case. Trammell v. Raytheon Missile Systems (N.D. Ariz., 2010).

Biased discipline is ruled discriminatory. An online charter school could not show valid grounds for firing an employee soon after it learned of her bipolar diagnosis. She was fired for insubordination after several minor rule violations over three weeks. However, the court found the timing of the discharge suspicious, occurring soon after the employer learned of the disability. Further, only two other employees had been discharged and both had a longer series of much more serious infractions and were given a much greater period to correct before being fired. The plaintiff’s unequal treatment in comparison with these others led to a conclusion of discrimination. Lagatta v. Penn. Cyper Charter School (W.D. Pa., 2010).

Bob Gregg, partner in Boardman Law Firm, shares his roundup of diversity-related legal issues. He can be reached at


  • “Sin Exception” seems a strange argument as according to biblical terms – gambling isn’t a sin. The seven deadly sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth (originally Acedia), Wrath, Envy and Pride.

    There are several instances when these sins are committed on a daily basis.

    Let’s just look at the recent ruling that labels obesity was a disability. Many obese people have been placed in their state due to gluttony (overindulging to a point of excess) or Sloth (laziness)/Acedia (the neglect to take care of something that one should do), couldn’t that fall into the “Sin Exception” as well. Please note I am not stating all people who are considered obese are gluttonous or sloths, I am just saying that they could be and therefore wouldn’t those obese people who do fall into the gluttony or sloth category run “afoul” of the Sin Exception.

    I can’t find the justification in the court’s ruling especially if they won’t use the same premise in obesity disability claims.

  • 7 sins are from church tradition, not the Bible. The Bible has different lists (And lots of them). ADA protects from the effects of the disability not the reason for the disability. Gambling wasn’t the cause for termination anyway. Gambling excessively is no reason not to pay debts or report debts.

  • From my understanding of the ADA, “sin exception” or not, the employer was within the law to take this action, because the employer has to know about the disability and any requested reasonable accomodations *before* any performance issues happen with the employee with the disability, otherwise any negative consequences to the employee as a result of that poor performance are allowed to stand. Reasonable accomodations can be made to improve performance in the future, but past poor performance can be kept on the record and any disciplinary action as a result of it is allowed to stand, so it is very important to request your accomodations *before* they affect your performance, so that particular man waited too long anyway. . I could be wrong, though.

  • If you only see the 7deadly sins of Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth , Wrath, Envy and Pride as justified reasoning for the “sin exception,” perhaps you should consider just how gambling centers around greed and envy, not to mention gluttony in some form, as well as pride (too proud to accept a loss or to admit you have a problem)… Just a thought to ponder.

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