Jonathan Blazek, Snowplow Driver, Sues For 'Alcoholism Discrimination'

Ohio snowplower Jonathan Blazek was fired while drinking on the job. He says he was discriminated against.

Alcoholism is a condition that ravages lives and tears families apart. But under the Americans With Disabilities Act, workers who are alcoholics can't lose their jobs simply because of it. But that is exactly what Jonathan Blazek claims happened when Lakewood's city government fired him from his $59,000-a-year job as a snowplow driver in March 2012.

Blazek sued the city alleging what local reports termed "alcoholism discrimination," and last week the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio held a hearing to start proceedings between Blazek and the city, according to Lakewood Patch.

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Blazek was working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift, but four hours into it, he was found to be drunk after failing a breathalyzer test. He registered .132 blood-alcohol content, twice the legal limit and more than six times the limit for city workers, according to Patch. He was sent home and fired three days later.

Lakewood legal director Kevin Turner told Patch that Blazek "was terminated because he was found to have consumed alcohol while on duty" and not "based on his alcoholism."

The distinction is crucial, because while alcoholism is considered to be a disability under federal law, substance abuse on the job is not protected. If the substance abuse affects a worker's performance, then the employer is within its rights to dismiss the worker, as a post on FindLaw notes.

Blazek had filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the EEOC halted its investigation in August when it decided that there was no cause to believe actual discrimination had occurred. Blazek decided to proceed anyway, filing the lawsuit in November in . He is seeking reinstatement, full back pay and payment for his attorney fees for the discrimination.

As has been reported by AOL Jobs, workers have had a mixed record claiming "
alcohol discrimination." In 1992, David White sued McFarland High School in Wisconsin, where he was a physical education teacher after for refusing to consider him for the school's basketball coach position. The school was concerned about the "negative attention" that would come the school's way as a result of White's history of heavy drinking. He sued, and the school settled with McFarland for $50,000.

But just last year, Clinton Knowles, sued the Sarasota, Fl.-police department after he showed up to work several times in an intoxicated state. He lost the lawsuit.

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