New Jersey Expands Employee Protections Against Age Discrimination
In New Jersey as elsewhere, age discrimination lawsuits have increased in recent years. Many employers have downsized their staffs of older employees in favor of hiring entry-level workers or part-timers with the goal of reducing overhead. In response, New Jersey has enacted a law that strengthens existing protections against age discrimination in the workplace.
A bill signed in October 2021 amends the state Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by removing a provision that gave employers the ability not to promote or hire employees aged 70 or older. The amendment also deletes an LAD section that had allowed higher education institutions to require tenured employees to retire when they turned 70 years old.
In addition, the revised law adopts a higher standard for government employers that try to require employees to retire at a specific age. Under the prior law, these employers had to show only that “age bears a manifest relationship to the employment in question.” Now, they must demonstrate that an employee is unable to perform their job adequately. Of note, this law does not apply to certain government employees such as state judges, who still have a mandatory retirement age.
The amendment also expands the remedies available to employees who claim they were forced to retire due to age. Under the prior law, these workers were required to file a complaint with the attorney general and the relief they could receive was limited to reinstatement with back pay and interest. Now, a worker can bring a civil lawsuit seeking damages, including punitive damages for employer conduct that is proved to be malicious or in wanton and willful disregard of the worker’s rights.
Though this law is still new, it will likely have a profound effect on businesses and public employers in a variety of ways. To ensure compliance, employers will need to review and amend policies that may be considered discriminatory toward older job applicants and employees. Hiring and employee review practices will likewise need to be closely monitored to see that the revised policies are enforced.
Despite employers’ best efforts, age discrimination in the workplace will not go away overnight. It should be expected that New Jersey will see an increase in LAD cases as a result of these expanded protections for older employees. Nevertheless, not every negative action or policy impacting an older employee is discriminatory. A worker must show that the action or policy was motivated by age or — even if neutral on its face — that it disproportionately affected older employees.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in a New Jersey workplace based on your age, Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq. in Succasunna will handle your case with compassion from start to finish to help you receive the justice you deserve. Call 862-354-8931 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.