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NJ Open Government Notes

Brick school board sued for discriminating against grounds worker because of his alcoholism.

In his March 30, 2020 lawsuit, a grounds worker formerly employed by the Brick Township (Ocean County, NJ) Board of Education sued the school board and its head of Human Resources for firing him after he allegedly failed a February 19, 2019 alcohol breath test.

In his lawsuit, Brian Flynn stated that he was summoned to the school board’s Human Resources office to take a urine and alcohol breath test. The breath test showed “a positive alcohol level content” and Flynn later admitted that “he had partaken in recreational cocaine use over the past weekend” and that “he would do whatever was necessary to in order to keep his job,” according to the filing. Flynn’s supervisor allegedly suspended him without pay on the spot. After a February 28, 2019 hearing, Flynn’s union representative reportedly told him that he was fired.

According to the lawsuit, alcoholism is a “protected disability” under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the board ought to have made a “reasonable accommodation” which might include giving Flynn “time-off and/or a leave of absence so that [he] can undergo treatment for [his] disability.” The contention that alcoholism is a protected disability under the NJLAD finds support in the 1988 New Jersey Supreme Court case of Clowes v. Terminix International, Inc. 109 N.J. 575.

The lawsuit is captioned Flynn v. Brick Township Board of Education, et al, Docket No. OCN-L-876-20 and Flynn is being represented by Gary E. Fox of Eatontown. Like any lawsuit, Flynn’s consists merely of allegations and Flynn carries the burden of proving the allegations before a trier of fact. If successful, Flynn may be able to recover his attorney fees from the school board.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project