In Brief

Employees over 70 can’t be forced to retire under new N.J. law

By: - October 5, 2021 5:47 pm
Governor Phil Murphy signing a bill

The new law expands New Jersey’s existing anti-discrimination statute to protect older employees. (Photo by Fran Baltzer for the New Jersey Monitor)

Workers who are 70 and older can no longer be forced out of a job just because of their age under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Tuesday.

The new law (A681) expands New Jersey’s existing anti-discrimination statute to protect older employees and closes what Murphy called a loophole that pushed some workers into retirement once they hit a certain age.

“Ageism often goes unquestioned and unchecked even within our own laws. In reality, older workers provide a depth of knowledge and experience that cannot be replaced. Ageism hurts the employees who are being discriminated, as well as the organizations,” Murphy said at the virtual bill signing.

The new law eliminates language that allowed employers to refuse hiring or promoting someone who is older than 70, and bars colleges and universities from requiring tenured employees to retire at 70. It also changes a provision in the old law that required some government workers to retire at a certain age.

Employees who file a claim citing age discrimination can seek legal remedies, including punitive damages. Previously, people were limited to seeking reinstatement of employment with back pay.

The Law Against Discrimination already prohibited discrimination and harassment based on race, religion, gender, disability, national origin, and sexual orientation.

“We have to look to the near future. By 2030 we will have more residents over the age of 60 than we will in our school system. That’s going to have a profound impact on our labor pool and our employment passages,” said Cathy Rowe, executive director of New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, workers 65 and older comprise 21% of the labor force. Murphy cited an AARP study that found 1 in 4 workers ages 45 and older received negative comments about their age.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who has championed women’s rights and equality, was a prime sponsor of the bill, and she applauded Murphy for “improving lives and restoring civil rights.” Weinberg, 86, announced in 2020 that she is retiring from the Legislature in January.

“As the only one on this call who is a little bit over 70, who is going into retirement by choice, I want to say I think this is not only good for older residents who might need to continue to work, but the older residents who still have so much to give to New Jersey,” she said.

The measure passed the Assembly in March and the state Senate in June without any opposition. The law does not change the mandatory retirement age for police chiefs, state judges, or Supreme Court Justices.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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