Governor Phil Murphy Signs New LAD Amendment, Expanding New Jersey Age Discrimination Protections
October 8, 2021
Types : Alerts
On Tuesday, Governor Phil Murphy expanded protections for older New Jersey employees by signing A681 into law. The bill amends the state’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), which until this week allowed New Jersey employers to refuse to hire or promote employees over 70 years old. Because of its overlap with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), A681 is unlikely to result in a flood of new causes of action. Practically, however, A681 may result in plaintiffs filing suits in New Jersey state courts rather than federal courts based on the relief now available in age discrimination suits pursuant to the LAD.
A681 implements a higher standard that government employers must meet in setting a mandatory retirement age and removes a provision of the law that permitted higher education institutions to require tenured faculty members to retire at 70. A681 also expands the remedies available to an employee required to retire due to age – the LAD previously entitled older employees wrongfully forced into retirement to reinstatement of employment with backpay. Employees forced to retire may now seek all remedies available under the LAD, including punitive damages and damages for emotional distress.
By eliminating language dating back to 1938, when the average American only lived to be 63, the sponsors of A681 hope to empower older New Jersey employees who want or need to remain in the workforce beyond “traditional” retirement age.
As any number of octogenarian professors can attest, the ADEA already prohibits most age-based discrimination, with no “upper limit” on its protections for most employees. The passage of A681 is therefore unlikely to create a wave of claims based on new causes of action. A681 does, however, provide for damages not available under the ADEA, such as compensatory and punitive damages, potentially encouraging plaintiffs to file age discrimination suits in New Jersey state courts and raising the stakes of compliance for employers.
Montgomery McCracken’s Labor and Employment attorneys regularly advise employers on complying with state and federal antidiscrimination laws. If you have any questions regarding A681 or antidiscrimination compliance in general, we are available to assist.