Lottery Official Suing, Says She Was Wrongly Fired Over Alcoholism

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fired Minnesota lottery official is suing to get her $109,000 per year job back.

She is arguing that she was discriminated against because of her alcoholism. The Minnesota Lottery fired Johnene Canfield this spring after she returned from a leave of absence and a stint in rehab following her December 2014 DUI arrest.

According to police reports, Canfield’s car crossed a lane of traffic, striking another car and injuring the elderly driver. In her lawsuit, Canfield argues that under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, alcoholism should be considered a disability.

Professor Joe Daly is an expert on Minnesota employment law.

“It’s not written down in the law itself whether alcohol is a qualified disability. Maybe this case will qualify for us whether alcohol is a qualified disability,” Daly said.

Police reports from Canfield’s December 2014 DWI arrest say she told police she was on her way to pick her children up at school. Canfield refused breath and urine tests. A blood alcohol test taken hours later showed her alcohol level was .20, two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Canfield’s lawsuit says state lottery officials, including Executive Direct Edward Van Petten, knew about her alcoholism because the lottery had suspended her for her drinking for 10 days in 2012.  The lawsuit claims Petten warned her about her drinking, yet he often drank with her.

Canfield has pleaded not guilty to this current DWI charge. She was convicted of another DWI in 2001.

An attorney for the Minnesota State Lottery said no one at the lottery could comment.

Canfield’s attorney issued a statement, saying she is very remorseful and is now sober.

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