Photo: Gresham PD

An Oregon police officer who was fired after he was arrested on DUI charges is now suing his former employer, claiming that they discriminated against him based on his alcoholism. He claims the termination is a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Jason Servo, a former Gresham, Oregon police officer, was arrested in January 2011 after he crashed his car into a ditch.

Servo, a detective and his department’s head firearms instructor, drove an unmarked police car to a firearms training program. He was off duty at the time. Afterwards, he went out for dinner and drinks with other officers. Servo was driving an unmarked police car at the time of the accident.

Servo was known for aggressively investigating DUI cases and was credited with solving a 2006 fatal hit-and-run involving a drunken driver, The Oregonian reported. He was injured by a drunken driver in 2000, the newspaper reported.

Arrested by deputy 

Servo was arrested by a Clackamas County, Oregon, sheriff’s deputy. When the deputy testified in front of Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, he said that Servo was "probably one of the top 10 most intoxicated people he had arrested in almost 15 years of drunken-driving investigations,” according to published reports.

Ultimately, Servo pled guilty to the DUI and successfully completed a diversion program. After entering a rehabilitation center, Servo says he was diagnosed as an alcoholic and made the decision to get sober.

"There were times where I went home and I couldn't get crime scenes out of my head; I went to drinking for that and there are other officers that do the same thing," Servo, who is now 818 days sober, was quoted as saying.

ADA recognizes alcoholism

Perhaps surprisingly, the ADA does recognize alcoholism as a disease, stating that:

[A]n employer may not make job decisions based on the fact that an employee is an alcoholic, attends AA meetings, or takes medication to curb the urge to drink. However, an employer may prohibit drinking at work and may generally hold all employees to the same standards of performance and conduct.

A FAQ page for the ADA states:

While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.

An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

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