On Oct. 5, 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Bill A-681, amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) to provide new protections against age discrimination for employees. Private sector employers should be aware of two major effects of this legislation.
First, the amendments eliminated an employer’s immunity from age discrimination claims for failing to hire applicants or promote employees who are over the age of 70. Prior to the amendments, New Jersey employers could refuse to hire applicants or promote workers who were over 70 years old. With these amendments, the LAD now mirrors the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Higher education institutions should also be aware that the amendments repealed a former LAD provision that permitted institutions to require tenured employees to retire at age 70.
Second, the amendments expanded the remedies for employees who are forced to retire due to their age. Now, such employees can seek any and all available remedies under the LAD, such as front pay, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. Prior to the amendments, employees who alleged they were unlawfully forced to retire because of their age had to file a complaint with the attorney general and their remedies were limited to reinstatement with back pay and interest.
Private employers in New Jersey should be mindful of these amendments when making personnel decisions affecting older employees, as these amendments significantly increase employers’ potential liability for certain claims of age discrimination.