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Weinberg, Turner Bill Aimed to Protect Older Workers, Passes Labor Committee

Trenton – Recognizing that the State’s workforce is graying, and that current law is outdated and fails to protect older workers from age bias, the Senate Labor Committee passed legislation today sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Shirley Turner that would amend laws on the books in order to extend age discrimination protections for State employees.

The amendments include the deletion of a provision dating back to 1938 that permits an employer to force retirement on an individual of a particular age if that employer can show that “age bears a manifest relationship to the employment in question.”

“As in many places around the country, New Jersey’s workforce is aging, and we need to be proactive in protecting those older workers against age discrimination,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “At the very least we need to bring these outdated laws up to date, in order to grant these valued workers the same protections enjoyed by their younger colleagues.”

The legislation deletes language in current law that allows employers not to hire or promote workers over 70 years old, closes a loophole that allows employees to force a person to retire when they reach a certain age, and eliminates a law requiring tenured college and university professors to retire when they turn 70.

“No one should be forced to retire before they are ready and employers should have the discretion to hire or promote whomever they feel is the best fit for the job, regardless of their age,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “It’s surprising such outdated, blatantly discriminatory laws are still on the books, but I am grateful we are finally taking action to address them.”

Under the bill, S-397, remedies for violations of age discrimination law would be expanded by repealing another flawed section of the law that now limits those illegally forced to retire to file a complaint with the Attorney General in hopes of gaining limited reinstatement, and sometimes back pay with interest.

The bill cleared committee by a vote of 5-0.