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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How do you make 59,000 a year snow-plowing? What the heck does he do the other 10 months of the year when it's not snowing??

January 23 2013 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hey car

Disability is suffering from the residuals of Polio and BKA (below knee amputee), alcoholism is a disease by choice, one that can be controlled by admitting yourself into rehab. Someone needs to have the Disabilities Act revised and I am taking the first step in attempting to do so. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read! I wish there was something for me to rid myself of the daily rituals I have to go through just to step out of my house and go to work!

January 23 2013 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You'd think that if someone acknowledges his alcoholism, that they'd seek help... instead of filing a lawsuit. If you're an alcoholic, the first step is to get treatment for it. If you're fired because you admit to being an alcoholic and don't seek treatment, then where does it end? You can't have it both ways. Give him his job back. But he doesn't deserve any back pay and lawyer's fees. And before he can return to duty (and paid, for that matter) make sure he has gone through and completed a 12-step or other accredited recovery program. If he's an alcoholic and can use that as a basis for a lawsuit demanding employment, then he should be required to complete a recovery program in order to be employable.

January 23 2013 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One would think that a position such as this requires a CDL (commercial drivers license), which has some stringent requirements attached to it - first and foremost your BAC limit is generally half that of a non CDL driver. So right there his CDL should have been pulled, and a snow plow driver without a license is useless and would have been let go any way.

January 23 2013 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is a blue state, they will probably give him his job back, it wasn't his was Bush's.

January 23 2013 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OH GOD - 59,000 a year as a snow plow driver - i forgot to mention how many people that work in law enforcement would love a salary like that - they risk their lives every day to protect and serve and this jerk is something our law enforcement has to deal with every day. this drunk gets paid way more than most police officers or fire fighters get - its disgusting and offensive to me.

January 23 2013 at 2:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

he wasnt fired FOR BEING AN ALCOHOLIC - that is a pathetic choice of words. he was fired for drinking on the job and driving. he should have had the responsibility to say I AM AN ALCOHOLIC AND I CAN NOT WORK TODAY BECAUSE I MADE THE CHOICE TO DRINK. alcoholism is probably the ONLY "disease" that is A CHOICE.

January 23 2013 at 2:02 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to logan2445's comment

Ever hear of obesity? How about drug addiction? Both choices. Both diseases.

January 23 2013 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just another lame excuse to allow someone to escape personal responsibility by perhaps killing someone due to lack of it--crazy and frightening. The laws are written to protect the criminal nowadays.

January 23 2013 at 1:15 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

So he thinks its ok for a drunk to drive a snow plow what a fool. someone needs to tell him its called DUI

January 22 2013 at 10:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

the loser deserves to be in jail not rewarded!

January 22 2013 at 10:04 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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