On October 5, Governor Phil Murphy signed Bill A681 into law, and took a significant step towards the goal of eliminating age discrimination in the State of New Jersey and expanded protections for older workers within the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD) (the Amendments). The Amendments take effect immediately.
Although the NJ LAD has long prohibited discrimination based on age, this protection had its limitations and permitted certain employment decisions that negatively impacted older workers.
Specifically, the amended law:
Repeals Section 11 of the NJ LAD (N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a)), which enabled employers to refuse to accept for employment or to promote individuals over 70 years. Repealing this provision opens up employment opportunities to individuals over 70 years of age. Age can no longer be used as a factor in the hiring or promotion process.
Amends Section 5 of the NJ LAD (N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.1), which previously limited the remedies to which age discrimination victims were entitled when they claimed they were unlawfully required to retire. Before the amendment, those individuals were required to file a complaint with the Attorney General and relief was limited to reinstatement with backpay and interest. The revised provision states that “in a claim of unlawfully being required to retire because of age, an employee has available all of the remedies provided by any applicable law,” subjecting employers who engage in such age discrimination to greater exposure and risk through expanded remedies.
Strikes the statutory provision (N.J.S.A. 10:3-1) that permitted government employers to force mandatory retirement at a certain age if the employer could show “that the retirement age bears a manifest relationship to the employment in question.” Now, government employers must continue to provide employment opportunities to older workers as long as the employees can perform their official duties and responsibilities.
Repeals Section 4 of the NJ LAD (N.J.S.A. 10:5-2.2), which stated that “an employee who has attained 70 years of age who is serving under a contract of tenure or similar arrangement providing for tenure at a public or private institution of higher education may, at the option of the institution, be required to retire.” Under the amended law, mandatory retirement policies based on age at higher education institutions are no longer permitted.
Notably, the new law does not alter the mandatory requirement age of 70 for Supreme Court justices and State judges or for police and fire department members.
Based on the amended law, it is critical for employers to tread even more carefully regarding employment decisions, making sure they do not deny employment opportunities to qualified older workers. Further, employers may need to review and revise their policies, practices, and procedures with respect to hiring, promotion, and retirement to ensure that age is not a factor in employment decisions.
This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.