Most Indiana residents will agree that enforcement of laws against driving under the influence of alcohol contributes to the safety of our roads. Still, every month courts convict drivers caught operating vehicles while intoxicated. Some people even lose their jobs as a result. Is it right that employment can be terminated because of breaking drinking laws?
An Anderson police officer was fired a few years ago and then recently rehired in a successful resolution of a wrongful termination lawsuit. In 2008 the police officer, with 16 years of experience on the force, was arrested for driving while over the legal blood-alcohol limit. He persistently challenged the charge in court, but eventually relented and pleaded guilty. He served two days in jail.
He was arrested once more while out on probation, this time for public intoxication. Although the charge was dismissed, he had to go back to jail for violating the terms of his probation. The police department dismissed the officer from his job.
The officer is also a qualified attorney, but the Indiana Supreme Court never took any action and he kept his law license. In the intervening years he worked as an assistant prosecutor, sometimes prosecuting alcohol-related cases. He has also since undergone treatment for alcohol dependency.
His superior, the county prosecutor, has praised both the quality of his work in that role and his efforts in overcoming substance abuse. He claims that there are people serving in court and law enforcement positions in Indiana, including judges that have drunk driving convictions, and says he believes that the man deserves another chance.
While working at court, the former police officer also filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city. Attorneys advising the city council recommended settling the lawsuit by reinstatement, since it was possible that the city would lose the case. This month the city's Public Safety Board agreed to reappoint him to the police force.
He will take a cut in salary of close to $20,000 and will lose the seniority that he previously enjoyed. Nonetheless, the man says police work is a calling for him, and he wants to retire on a good note.
Anyone who loses a job as a result of a conviction has the right to challenge the dismissal legally. Attorneys that understand Indiana's employment legislation are well-placed to advise how to seek either reinstatement or financial compensation.
Source: The INDY Channel, "Ousted officer returns to force after two arrests," Stephen Dean, March 20, 2014