Cory Neddermeyer says he is a recovering alcoholic and he was just satisfying his curiosity when he drank ethanol--intended to be used as fuel for automobiles--on the job.
"Things were going pretty well until that day at work," he tells the Des Moines Register.
In describing that day at work, Neddermeyer said that when he showed up for his job as a maintenance technician at Amaizing Energy in Denison, Iowa, he noticed a spill of ethanol that had gathered from leaking equipment. Throughout the day, he was curious about what ethanol would taste like and what effects it would have, so he decided to have a drink, he says.
"I am a recovering alcoholic, and I thought about the availability of this alcohol throughout the day," he says. "Curious about the taste and its effects, I dipped into this lake of liquor and drank what I considered to be 2 to 3 ounces."
After a co-worker discovered Neddermeyer incoherent and unable to answer simple questions at the job site, Neddermeyer was taken to Crawford County Hospital, where he was diagnosed as suffering from acute alcohol intoxication. The newspaper reports that state records show that Neddermeyer's blood-alcohol content was 0.72, which is nearly double what could potentially be fatal for someone with a lower tolerance. By way of comparison, you'd have to move that decimal point to the left just to squeeze under the state's limit for driving (0.08).
The company investigated the incident and found soda bottles that smelled of alcohol in Neddermeyer's work area. The company says its tests revealed the bottles had held alcohol. The company then fired Neddermeyer for drinking its ethanol. Neddermeyer had worked for the company for less than a year.
After the company fired him, Neddermeyer filed an unemployment benefits claim, which was denied. He filed an appeal, arguing that the company shared responsibility because of the leaking equipment and that he was protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
However, an administrative law judge also denied his claim, saying Neddermeyer's misconduct was sufficient enough to disqualify him from receiving unemployment benefits.
"The claimant's argument that the employer's leaking equipment caused him to drink the fuel belies credibility," the judge wrote. "Just because some of the ethanol leaked onto the floor is not a good reason for the claimant to drink automobile fuel. The claimant's action could have killed him or caused him serious physical harm. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not give permission for unemployment insurance claimants to commit misconduct yet still receive unemployment insurance benefits."
Sources: Des Moines Register and Iowa Workforce Development