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City to Defend ‘Alcoholism Discrimination’ Lawsuit

Jonathan Blazek was fired last March after he was caught drinking on the job — driving a snowplow truck for the city of Lakewood. Now, he’s suing the city.

It looks as if Jonathan Blazek will have his day in court.

The former city of Lakewood employee was fired for drinking on the job — driving a snowplow truck — in March 2012.

Blazek, a self-admitted alcoholic, then filed a complaint in federal court alleging discrimination based on his alcoholism.

He’s seeking reinstatement, full back pay, and attorney fees.

Following last week's hearing in US District Court Northern District of Ohio, a status conference with Judge Patricia Gaughan 
is scheduled on April 29.

The city has hired an outside law firm to defend the case.

“Our intention is to defend it fully, as we have every step of the way,” said Kevin Butler, the city’s law director.

“He was not terminated based on his alcoholism. He was terminated because he was found to have consumed alcohol while on duty.”

Four hours into his shift on March 13, 2012, Blazek failed a breathalyzer test, registering .132 blood-alcohol content — twice the legal limit and more than six times the city’s allowable limit.

“He’s admitted these facts,” Butler said. “The fact of the matter is that it isn’t because he is an alcoholic  — it’s that he was drunk on the job.”

Mayor Michael Summers added that the city followed proper procedure with Blazek’s termination.

“It doesn’t cost an employee anything to file an (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) claim,” he said. “Any employee can. That, to me is the greatest frustration any employer can face.”

Several years ago, Euclid Fire Chief Michael Dworning filed a similar lawsuit in 2006 against his former employer after he resigned from his post. 

In its decision, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with the city of Euclid.

John Kopecky January 18, 2013 at 02:47 PM
This is why the United States needs to adopt laws like other nations where the Plantiff in a civil suit pays the attorney fees of the defendant if they happen to lose their suit. I firmly hope Lakewood fights this tooth and nail and this guy gets zilch. However that may cost the taxpayers, the citizens of Lakewood, more in the long run than throwing this guys some cash.
Christina Cocchiarale Ward January 18, 2013 at 03:07 PM
This is ridiculous. I hope he gets nothing as well. Suing the city when it's HIS fault. smh
Susan Kaminski January 18, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I completely agree with you. I think the attorney bringing these types of suits should also have to pay.
Melissa Sloban January 18, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Which is probably what this guy's lawyer told him. "Don't worry they'll settle". Pause and reflect. How dangerous is a drunken snowplow driver? In addition I'll bet that somewhere in the employee handbook there is a clause about immediate dismissal if found to be drunk or impaired on duty.
Patch reader January 18, 2013 at 07:10 PM
"Four hours into his shift on March 13, 2012, Blazek failed a breathalyzer test, registering .132 blood-alcohol content — twice the legal limit and more than six times the city’s allowable limit." How about a class action lawsuit of all the Resident/Citizens of Lakewood suing Blazek for endangering their safety? I park on the street. I had my rear view mirror scraped off by a snow plow last year. Was this Blazek? I wonder is he was the one who did this while he was under the influence. Perhaps I should have my attorney investigate and file a lawsuit of my own..... Blazek's dad should box his ears and take him behind the woodshed. THAT would be proper justice for this arrogant jerk who wants to blame his lack of control on anything BUT himself.
Barbara January 19, 2013 at 10:22 PM
With any job an employee can not drink or be intoxacated, especially operating a machine. Actually I feel that his employer should have called the police and they should have arrested him for DUI also. When we drive and drink we are subject to a DUI arrest.
James October 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM
The article needs correction--the Ohio Supreme Court sided with Dworning, NOT with the City of Euclid. See http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/0/2008/2008-ohio-3318.pdf
Christina Cocchiarale Ward October 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM
This guy is GUILTY of being DRUNK while working. Ridiculous. So what if the court sided with him before....what's on the plate now is the Lakewood one and he is in the WRONG. How DARE he waste the time to go through with trying to sue the city? He had no chance.
James October 11, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Christina, you're conflating two separate individuals with two completely different cases. Ohio courts agreed with one (Dworning), and rejected the second (Blazek).
Christina Cocchiarale Ward October 11, 2013 at 08:27 PM
James, I apologize. I read it too quickly. Thank you.
James October 11, 2013 at 09:01 PM
The two cases highlight the important distinction between the condition of alcoholism and the conduct of drinking. Ultimately, the State of Ohio seeks to eliminate substance abuse. Ohio accomplishes its goal by (1) protecting the person who responsibly treats his alcoholism (a la the Dworning case), while (2) condemning the person who embraces substance abuse by drinking and driving (a la the Blazek case).

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