Ex-employee sues city, claims he was discriminated against for being an alcoholic

A city snow plow truck clears Clarence Ave. on Wednesday evening.

A city snow plow truck clears Clarence Ave. on Wednesday evening. The city fired a snow plow truck driver in March after he consumed alcohol while on duty.

Jonathan Blazek had a decent thing going. He joined the Public Works Department in 1988 as a night watchman and worked his way up over the next 23 years becoming a brush chipper operator, then a mechanic, and finally a streets-forestry worker. The Olmsted Falls resident earned a salary of nearly $59,000 in 2011.

Things took an unfortunate turn in mid-March of this year when Blazek, a self-acknowledged alcoholic, volunteered to work a 4 p.m. to midnight “winter shift” as a snow plow operator. Just 15 minutes before quitting time, he was sent home after it was discovered that he’d been drinking while on the job. His employment with the city was terminated three days later.

Blazek in April filed complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging he was unlawfully discriminated against based on alcoholism, which is a legally recognized disability. The EEOC terminated its investigation in August after finding that there was no probable cause to believe discrimination occurred.

Undeterred, Blazek last month filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking reinstatement, full back pay, and attorney fees.

Blaczek accuses the city of wrongfully firing him, inflicting emotional distress, causing a loss of consortium, and violating the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Ohio Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him because he’s an alcoholic.

The city admits it knew that Blazek had problems with alcohol, but denies any wrongdoing. It also disputes Blazek’s claim that he hadn’t had any prior disciplinary infractions.

The matter is before Judge Patricia A. Gaughn. A preliminary case management conference on the issue is set for January 11.

Legal round-up: County judge affirms Planning Commission’s historic designation of church; Grace Ave. residents settle Discount Drug Mart dispute

A recent rumor suggested a bank was interested in buying the building.

A recent rumor suggested a bank was interested in buying the building.

Cuyahoga County Court Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold earlier this month affirmed the Planning Commission’s designation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist building on Detroit Avenue as a historic property.

California Phone, Inc., the out-of-state owner of the building, had filed an appeal because it felt the property didn’t meet the criteria nor did it believe the Commission followed the proper procedures. Judge Saffold disagreed on all counts. It is not known if the company will file any other appeals.

 In other legal news….a settlement was reached on Thursday regarding the appeal filed by Grace Avenue residents Annie Caswell and Don Tollett over the Commission’s approval of the Discount Drug Mart project in Ward 4. More details are expected to be released soon…Cohassett Avenue resident Aumar A. Salti has withdrawn his lawsuit against the city. Salti was riding a bike in the street on the west side of Waterbury Road, south of Madison Avenue, when he hit a pothole, fell to the ground, and broke his wrist in two places.

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