Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein and Senator Patrick Diegnan, which would restore New Jersey Transit employee protections, was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy yesterday.
“Federal protections were absent at New Jersey Transit due to their ability to assert sovereign immunity,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This overt display of injustice stifled the voices of those seeking to assert their fundamental rights as workers. This law ensures New Jersey Transit’s railroad employees will have their voices heard, while exercising their rights, when unjust circumstances arise.”
In a case unrelated to workers’ rights, a recent U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declared the New Jersey Transit Corporation “an arm of the state” and thereby entitled to claim sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sovereign immunity prevents a state government or its political subdivisions, departments and agencies from being sued without its consent. Prior to this ruling, New Jersey Transit rail employees were subject exclusively to preemptive federal railroad laws.
The new law will restore federal protections for injuries suffered on the job, unemployment, retirement, whistleblowing, discrimination, and will prohibit NJ Transit from raising a defense of sovereign immunity in those specific instances.
“This law guarantees New Jersey Transit employees the protections that already exist under federal law, including injury compensation and civil rights protections,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “The legislation removes any ambiguity and is a win-win for the State and its workers.”