New law toughens rules against firing, rejecting older workers

Daniel J. Munoz//October 5, 2021//

New law toughens rules against firing, rejecting older workers

Daniel J. Munoz//October 5, 2021//

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Workers over the age of 70 will have new legal protections in place to keep them from losing their jobs simply due to their age, or from being passed over for a promotion or new job.

Assembly Bill 681, signed on Oct. 5, puts several barriers in place to keep an employer from firing someone because of age, and bars them from rejecting someone’s application because they’re over 70, or overlooking them for a promotion.

Under the state’s existing Laws Against Discrimination, prior to the new bill’s approval, employers were generally barred from terminating a worker, refusing to hire them or forcing them to retire because of their age.

Now, an affected employee can go after the business for legal remedies, including “reinstatement with back pay and interest,” according to the bill text. And the new measure scraps a 1938 law requiring retirement at the age of 70 for public employee, and prohibits universities and colleges from forcing tenured employees to retire at the age of 70.

Murphy, at a remotely-held bill-signing on Tuesday, said that the practice of age discrimination by employers “reinforces the idea that certain groups of people have less worth than others.”

“Ageism hurts the employees, as well as the organizations themselves,” the governor added.

Loretta Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader, D-37th District.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District, age 86, who is retiring from her post next year, said Tuesday that age “was one of the last big loopholes” in state law that allowed for discrimination.

Loopholes for discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, for example, had all been closed, Weinberg said.

“Every worker deserves to be judged on how well they do their job, never on their age,” reads a June statement from the American Association of Retired Persons New Jersey chapter. “The reality is that our workforce is getting older, and people are working longer; yet” an increasing number of “older workers report seeing or experiencing age discrimination on the job.”

The AARP reported in a 2019 survey that “nearly 1 in 4 workers” at least 45 years of age have been subjected to negative comments about their age from supervisors or coworkers,” while 3 in 5 have experienced workplace discrimination.

Meanwhile, 76% said age discrimination was a barrier to finding a new job, while another report showed more than half were forced to retire and 90% were not able to attain the same level of pay in their new job.

“Whether it’s a part-time job or long-term career, employment has a powerful impact on everyone’s overall well-being,” said Kathy Rowe, head of New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well.

She estimated that by 2030, there would be more New Jerseyans over the age of 60 than there would be schoolchildren, which would have a “profound impact on our labor world and our employment practices.”