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FIRED PRISON GUARD AWARDED $420,300

A prison guard fired after complaining that smokers were causing his breathing problems has won a federal lawsuit against the state, it was reported Saturday.

Jurors in U.S. District Court decided in 36-year-old Keith Muller's favor with a $420,300 award. The panel found that the state Department of Correctional Services intentionally had discriminated against Muller under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Muller, who has asthma and other breathing problems, was fired last month from Midstate Correctional Facility in Marcy.

James Flateau, spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said he hadn't seen last week's decision and could not comment on it.

But Norman Deep, Muller's lawyer, told the Observer-Dispatch of Utica that he thought the decision had wide ramifications for people who work around smokers.

"I think this case will go a long way to help all state employees who are forced to ingest secondhand smoke," Deep told the newspaper.

U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. may decide soon whether Muller should be reinstated to his job with back pay.

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