Iowa Judge Says Alcoholism No Excuse for Misconduct

July 12, 2006 ( - An Iowa judge threw out the discrimination suit of a man seeking unemployment benefits after being fired from an ethanol plant for drinking "automobile fuel" produced at the plant.

Former maintenance technician Cory Neddermeyer showed up for work at Amaizing Energy – an Iowa company that produces ethanol fuel for vehicles in a formula that includes a high concentration of alcohol – and found a spill of 190-proof alcohol, according to The Des Moines Register. Neddermeyer consumed the alcohol, and his co-workers later found him incoherent, unable to say his name or the day of the week.

The newspaper said state records show Neddermeyer’s blood-alcohol level was nine times the legal limit for driving – almost double the level considered potentially fatal for many adults.

The former maintenance worker claimed that because he was a recovering alcoholic, he was tempted by the substance. When Administrative Law Judge Teresa Hillary asked him why he did it, he replied, “I don’t have a good explanation for that …. Curiosity?”

According to the newspaper, Neddermeyer later wrote in a statement to state officials that he thought about the “availability of this alcohol throughout the day … Curious about the taste and its effects, I dipped into this lake of liquor and drank what I considered to be two to three ounces. The next thing I remember is waking up in Crawford County Memorial Hospital.”

The judge rejected Neddermeyer’s claim that his employers played a role in his actions because they provided him with the “opportunity” to drink and that he was discriminated against because he was an alcoholic, the newspaper reported. He asked for unemployment benefits under the American with Disabilities Act.

According to the Register, Hillary denied Neddermeyer’s request for benefits and ruled that Amaizing Energy should reasonably expect their employees not to drink the fuel.

“Just because some of the ethanol leaked onto the floor is not a good reason for the claimant to drink automobile fuel,” Hillary said.