New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a new bill into law that prohibits employers from forcing employees that are 70 or older from a job. This new law, A681, closes what has been described as a loophole that allowed some employers to force workers into retirement at a certain age.
This bill expands existing anti-discrimination statutes in New Jersey in order to expand protections to older workers. According to Governor Murphy, these older workers provide workplaces with a considerable depth of knowledge that is impossible to replace; therefore, this new law protects both older workers and the organizations that employ them from the negative effects of ageism.
This new law removes certain language from the law that permitted private employers to refuse to hire or promote individuals that were over the age of 70. This law also prohibits colleges and universities from mandating a maximum retirement age of 70 for tenured employees. Similarly, several categories of public employees were previously required to retire at a certain age in some positions, and these provisions were changed to remove many of these retirement ceilings.
This new law, in addition to prohibiting these employment practices, also expands the remedies available to employees. Workers claiming to have been denied employment due to their age, whether or not they are over 70, as well as those that have been forced into retirement due to their age, may attempt to pursue all remedies permitted under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD). This includes both compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement, back pay, interest, and attorneys fees. Under the state’s previous laws, individuals were limited to solely reinstatement with back pay.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21% of the labor force is already comprised of workers 65 and older, and supporters of the new law pointed to the fact the state’s workforce is estimated to only grow older. Plus, many workers are likely to need to work well past the age of 65.
The state already prohibited age discrimination, including where youth was a factor in employment decisions. However, these new laws eliminate all previously permissible upper employment age ceilings for private employers.
This new law takes effect immediately, and in order to comply, employers should review any policies they may have regarding a mandatory retirement age as well as any severance policies that may be related. Additionally, it is important to ensure that any person responsible for making hiring decisions is aware of these changes and is ready to comply with them in all future hiring decisions.