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Fired Minnesota Lottery executive sues for her job back

Minnesota LotteryMinnesota Lottery: Fired Minnesota Lottery executive sues for her job back
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — A former senior executive at the Minnesota State Lottery who was fired amid a bout with alcohol abuse is suing her ex-boss and the state on claims she was discriminated against because of her gender and her chemical dependency.

Johnene Canfield filed a lawsuit Friday in Ramsey County District Court that seeks reinstatement to the $100,000-a-year assistant lottery director post. She is also seeking damages for lost wages and emotional distress since being put on leave in December following her arrest in a suspected drunken driving crash. Canfield ultimately was terminated as a state employee in July but had been formally removed from her executive post two months earlier.

Her lawsuit candidly recounts struggles with alcohol abuse, which previously led to a 10-day suspension in 2012 after she became intoxicated at an out-of-state conference. But Canfield contends she received mixed messages from her superiors about alcohol use and had been "condoned and encouraged" by Lottery Director Ed Van Petten to drink with him when they traveled together to conferences in recent years.

Van Petten, who is named as a defendant, said Tuesday he couldn't comment on the pending litigation. The Department of Minnesota Management and Budget, which is also being sued, also declined to comment.

Through an attorney, Canfield declined an interview request. The attorney, Kevin Beck, would only say, "We ask that Ms. Canfield's privacy be respected and we let the courts process work itself out."

Her firing ended a 25-year career with the lottery dating to the agency's creation in 1989. Canfield, 47, began as a secretary and rose to the entity's upper ranks, including a seven-month stint as interim director between the departure of the former chief and hiring of Van Petten in March 2012.

According to the lawsuit, she was fired for actions that "have caused a loss of trust and confidence that are critical to the high level managerial position" she held and for exhibiting poor judgment that has "negatively impacted the reputation of the Lottery." State officials have yet to release her personnel file or confirm the reasons for her dismissal.

The lawsuit hinges on two main arguments. Canfield argues her alcoholism didn't materially affect her performance but she was punished more severely than two male managers who received short suspensions for serious rule violations directly relating to their official duties.

She also maintains that her alcoholism is a protected disability under the state Human Rights Act. Her lawsuit says the state had a duty to do more to help her cope with the abuse.

Instances where alcoholism has been invoked in a wrongful termination case are rare, but not novel. Minneapolis attorney George Antrim III, who successfully represented a client in such a case in federal court in the 1990s, said they are difficult to prove. He has been approached regularly since then about helping in similar cases.

"The problem is almost always that the employee has engaged in some conduct," said Antrim, who is not involved in Canfield's case. "Just because you are drunk does not excuse the conduct. Just because you have a disability does not excuse the behavior."

He added that judges "just don't cut you much slack."

"There's still a great reluctance to accept alcoholism and chemical dependency as disabilities," he said. "It's a hard fight."

Canfield's criminal trial in the drunken driving case is set for later this month. She faces gross misdemeanor charges on allegations she was intoxicated and caused an accident on a weekday afternoon that injured an elderly man. She was previously convicted on a drunken driving charge in 2001.

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9 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by hearsetrax.
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JordanT1021's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
North Carolina
United States
Member #53121
June 24, 2007
6498 Posts
Offline
Posted: October 7, 2015, 4:28 pm - IP Logged

good luck with your lawsuit... It ain't gonna happen

    dr65's avatar - black panther.jpg
    Pennsylvania
    United States
    Member #74096
    May 2, 2009
    22872 Posts
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    Posted: October 7, 2015, 4:35 pm - IP Logged

    If people refuse to learn at some point, the consequences for their actions can't always

    be swept under the rug. How many chances does a person get to break the law? She was

    wrong and wants her job back now and is blaming it on addiction and crying foul for being

    treated differently. I'm sure the whole extent of her problems and episodes of workplace

    drunkeness aren't part of the story or suit. This time..if it's the first...she injured a person

    while intoxicated. The termination was, imo, long overdue. Too bad lady.

    246 ~~ 485 ~~ 369 ~~ 890 ~~ 705 ~~ 357 ~~ 129 ~~ 165 ~  007 ~ 225 ~ 818 ~ 440 ~  7775 5557

      Drenick1's avatar - villiarna
      USA
      United States
      Member #152799
      February 25, 2014
      1090 Posts
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      Posted: October 7, 2015, 5:08 pm - IP Logged

      Just another entitled idiot. What she doesn't realize is the Minnesota state lottery could very well be liable for her actions. She has already been given a pass on a previous DUI and now she feels it's her right to get her job back after getting drunk once again and causing injuries to an elderly person. I find it funny on how she tried to shift the blame to her boss saying he encouraged her to drink....lol

        sully16's avatar - sharan
        Ringleader
        Michigan
        United States
        Member #81740
        October 28, 2009
        40376 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: October 7, 2015, 7:28 pm - IP Logged

        If people refuse to learn at some point, the consequences for their actions can't always

        be swept under the rug. How many chances does a person get to break the law? She was

        wrong and wants her job back now and is blaming it on addiction and crying foul for being

        treated differently. I'm sure the whole extent of her problems and episodes of workplace

        drunkeness aren't part of the story or suit. This time..if it's the first...she injured a person

        while intoxicated. The termination was, imo, long overdue. Too bad lady.

        Well Said dr65.

        Did you exchange a walk on part in the war ?

        For a lead role in a cage?

         

                                                    From Pink Floyd's " Wish you were here"

          lejardin's avatar - Lottery-014.jpg

          United States
          Member #118609
          November 4, 2011
          932 Posts
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          Posted: October 8, 2015, 12:05 am - IP Logged

          this has to be one of the most insane stories/lawsuits I think I have ever read.  I have heard it all.  This womans actions are disgusting and she should be ashamed of herself.

          No wonder America is going to hell in a handbasket. 

          I cant control myself so let me blame my coworker.......

          Wow.  If this woman wins her case I will be totally disgusted, not that I'm not already however.  Good grief.

            TheGameGrl's avatar - character catafly.jpg
            A long and winding road
            United States
            Member #17084
            June 10, 2005
            4524 Posts
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            Posted: October 8, 2015, 11:33 am - IP Logged

            Minnesota is an "At will" state.  Contingent on the states Defense response that it did abide by the ADA - In offering her time for rehabilitation and that she successfully followed thru on Treatment and incurred  no further on the job episodes of this nature. She is a "state" Employee and there in lays the crux of concern. She may have State employee rights that go deeper then the average Joe at the burger shop. States tend to be very giving to the employees and their benefits.

            Her admitting that she basically did NOT decline alcohol when broached seems to indicate and incriminate her in so much as she was not sticking with the recovery program. The ADA does not protect a person who has a disability into behaving poorly in a work environment . If Joe shmoe is wheelchair bound and consistently rams his wheelchair into Betty each day....and causes her injuries in the workplace. He cannot use the ADA act to prevent write ups or possible dismissal.

            She is trying to compare apples to oranges in dragging in  other employees. Its doubtfull they were suffering from a disease or making poor decisions during hours of work. She though did.

            Usually matters of this sort get worked out thru the State Labor Board, yet she has chosen the Standard court system, which may well look at this as a Standard employment issue instead of a State EMPLOYEE issue.

            I think they will negotiate with her, give her her retirement pension and allow her to collect partial back pay to make this go away. I have no reason to consider this anything less then tapping the mut on the nose and then giving them a puppy treat....The Double standards are common , so it will be the courts to decide .

            ~~Is it true, Is it kind,Is it necessary. ~~~

             Thanks be to the giving numbers: 1621,912,119 02014

              Avatar
              Simpsonville
              United States
              Member #163189
              January 22, 2015
              668 Posts
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              Posted: October 8, 2015, 3:57 pm - IP Logged

              I despise people like her who REFUSE to take RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR actions.  Suppose she killed that senior citizen?  I hope he sues her, that is worthy litigation to purse IMHO.

                RedStang's avatar - tallman zps6gf4inoc.jpg
                NY
                United States
                Member #121961
                January 21, 2012
                3157 Posts
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                Posted: October 16, 2015, 1:31 am - IP Logged

                Well on a positive note, if she gets rehired you don't have to worry about her rigging a RNG. She'll be to messed up to do that.

                  hearsetrax's avatar - 0118

                  United States
                  Member #52345
                  May 21, 2007
                  2657 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: October 16, 2015, 9:34 am - IP Logged

                  Well on a positive note, if she gets rehired you don't have to worry about her rigging a RNG. She'll be to messed up to do that.

                  LOL