New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Amended to Protect Employees Aged 70 or Older
New Jersey has one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country that is applicable to employers including boards of education. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees, for among other reasons, his/her race, religion, national origin, disability, marital, civil union or domestic partnership status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and/or age.
On October 5, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill No. 681 into law, which amends the NJLAD, and expands the protection for employers who are age 70 years or older. The amendments became effective immediately. The law was enacted in recognition of the number of individuals who work beyond age 65, and it needed to be updated to afford protections for those individuals. Prior to the amendments, the NJLAD provided that an employer could refuse to hire or promote any person over 70 years of age. That language was removed.
In addition to removing language which essentially protected employers who refused to hire or promote individuals aged 70 or older, the statute was amended to expand the available remedies to individuals who are forced to retire because of their age. Such claimants are no longer limited to filing a complaint with the Attorney General and being limited to reinstatement with backpay and interest. Rather, the amendments allow an employee who is unlawfully forced to retire on account of his/her age to have available the full panoply of remedies including reinstatement with backpay and interest, compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
School officials should be aware that these changes expand potential liability for boards of education as it relates to older workers and prospective workers. School officials should review employment practices policies to make sure that they do not contain any mandatory retirement age. In addition, human resources personnel should be informed about the change in the law to ensure that no personnel decisions are made strictly on account of an individual’s age. Questions regarding the amendments to the NJLAD and their application should be directed to the board attorney.
 Pub. L. 2021, ch. __.