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Suspension of alcoholic employee does not violate ADAAA

BY Roy Maurer

An employer did not discriminate against an alcoholic worker by suspending her for being drunk at work and ordering her to remain alcohol- and drug-free for one year, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Clifford v. Rockland Cnty., (2d Cir., No. 12-3083).

The 2nd Circuit affirmed that special conditions imposed on employees identified as substance abusers are not grounds for discrimination and retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Deirdre Clifford was suspended from her position as a cashier at a Rockland County, N.Y., health department cafeteria after she was cited for being intoxicated at work. Clifford served her suspension and eventually signed a return-to-work agreement that required her to submit to random drug and alcohol tests for one year upon her return.

She was later injured after collapsing in the kitchen and remained unable to work at the time she filed the complaint.

Clifford sued the county, alleging discrimination and retaliation under the ADAAA, among other claims. Specifically, she argued that the county failed to engage in the ADAAA-required “interactive process,” or otherwise to make reasonable accommodations for her alcoholism, and that the discipline she received was discriminatory because it effectively prohibited her from ingesting alcohol while off duty, a condition not imposed on workers without an alcohol-related disability.

The court was not convinced that she was denied a reasonable accommodation. “Here, it is undisputed that, over the years of Clifford’s employment, the County had accommodated her disability by acceding to requests for time off to secure treatment for relapses,” the court said. “Clifford can hardly charge the County with having failed to afford her a reasonable accommodation when, instead of pursuing termination after the [initial] incident, it agreed to a suspension that afforded her the opportunity to return to work on a showing that she posed no serious risk of relapse.”

The court noted that the county terminated at least two other hospital employees for substance-abuse violations.

“Clifford cannot demonstrate that the County’s actions in affording her an opportunity to return to her job were pretexts for discriminatory bias,” the court said.

The court also found that Clifford’s contention that the discipline she received was discriminatory failed to raise evidence of pretext. “While its provision that, for a year following Clifford’s return to work, no level of alcohol in her blood would be tolerated was one not generally imposed on other employees, we have already ruled that special conditions imposed on employees identified as substance abusers do not violate the ADA.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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Study finds rental is growing faster than the economy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A strong construction market, particularly residential construction, is a key variable in the positive forecast released Monday by the equipment rental industry.

The equipment rental industry in the United States continues to outpace gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States by four times in 2013, according to American Rental Association’s (ARA) latest forecast from the ARA Rental Market Monitor.

Revenues will reach $33.5 billion in revenue, representing a 7.0% increase over 2012 with revenue growth reaching 7.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the latest quarterly forecast updated July 29, 2013. 

Economic data and analysis for ARA’s Rental Market Monitor is compiled by IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm based in Lexington, Mass.

In the United States, the construction market and consumer spending continue to be the most important drivers of growth of the equipment rental market in 2013. 

“Though real nonresidential construction is forecast to decline 0.8%, real residential construction is expected to grow 8.2%, yielding an overall real construction growth rate of 2.6% in 2013,” according to the U.S. economic analysis from the ARA Rental Market Monitor. “Real consumer spending is projected to increase 1.9% in 2013, with spending on recreational services forecast to grow 1.3%. These improvements will translate into increased revenue in all segments of the equipment rental market.”

The construction and industrial equipment segment is forecast to grow 8.1% in 2013, while general tool segment revenue is expected to increase 5.4% over 2012. Party and event rental revenue is forecast to increase 2.4%. The second quarter of 2013 is projected to be the slowest for the overall rental equipment market compared with 2012, but quarter-on-quarter growth is forecast to pick up in the final two quarters of the year.

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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Aug. 2, 2013

*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: While wholesalers sold off positions at discounts to mill quotes, SPF lumber mills were content doing little in the way of adjusting prices, even though demand slowed. Sales activity slowed in the Southern Pine lumber market. Cautious buyers noticed shrinking order files, growing mill lists and a willingness among some producers, particularly on the Westside, to discount a few items, Demand for dry Coastal species lumber items remained strong, continuing to place upward pressure on those prices. Early activity led to quick price increases that held steady throughout the remainder of the week. Current activity levels in Inland species lumber have moderated, but the mill-based prices have not come down as a result. Mills are working off lean inventories and feel no need to discount the modest volumes of #2&Btr lumber that they are developing. Radiata Pine industrials are holding firm, despite reports that some surpluses of Mldg&Btr have developed. Ponderosa Pine Shop remains on an upward vector, Mldg&Btr has begun to show the effects of weak demand for solid lineal mouldings. Demand for Shop lumber, on the other hand, remains very brisk, and prices continue to move upward. Ponderosa Pine 4/4 boards continue to strengthen, especially in the wides. Demand for ESLP boards is reported to be muted. Eastern White Pine producers report that they are “maxed out” on available supply but that the market is firm and stable in prices and demand. Several Western Red Cedar producers reported stronger sales in July than June, which might be the result of milder summer weather in parts of the South. Buyers continued to replenish needs at a consistent rate.

Panels: Almost without exception, sources agreed it was a quiet week in OSB. Despite the fact that most producers held their numbers unchanged, some soft areas became evident. The Southern Pine plywood market took a breather after sales activity improved throughout much of July. Yards and wholesalers turned more of their attention toward taking delivery of prior purchases. Western Fir plywood sales did not show the same vigor as the week prior, but enough energy was generated to allow producers to nudge several prices moderately higher. Continued exports to Canada helped mills push order files into the latter half of the month. A number of factors combined to make this a quiet week in Canadian softwood plywood sales. Despite that, neither producers nor distributors call the market potentially weak. Agreement is missing with regard to the upward movement of the market. Both particleboard and MDF producers reported that July was a slower month, which was not a surprise. Orders were not as prevalent in July as in previous months and not consisting of the volumes producers are expecting in the future.

For more on RISI, click here.

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