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Monday, October 1, 2012

Passaic County Age Discrimination Plaintiffs Win

Age discrimination in employment is against the law in New Jersey. Long-term employees may not be terminated because of their age.

The Record reported that six former employees won an age discrimination lawsuit in Passaic County, New Jersey. In this age discrimination lawsuit brought by six former detectives, the State Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Graziano in Paterson, NJ denied the Defendents’ post-judgment motions for a new trial.

The six former investigators had sued Passaic County and former prosecutor James F. Avigliano under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, claiming that Passaic County and James F. Avigliano had forced them to retire by eliminating their positions because of their ages.

The Record reported that because the prosecutor was forced by Passaic County to cut $2.7 million from his budget, more than 30 positions were eliminated. The defendants argued they laid off the long-time employees because of their medical benefits and pensions in order to have to lay off fewer employers.

However, the lawyers for the terminated detectives argued that choosing to layoff older workers because they have pensions is discrimination in and of itself.

The jury found that the detectives had been the victims of age discrimination and awarded them monetary damages.

You may read The Record article here.

When employers in New Jersey make decisions as to which employees should be let go and which employees should keep their jobs, courts have ruled age cannot be a factor. The age protection for workers under New Jersey law is not limited to individuals under age 70. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld that in a case of termination, the age of 70 is not an exception to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination's protection against discrimination because of age. Catalane V. Gilian Instrument, 271 N.J. Super. 476 (1994) certifi. denied, 136 N.J. 298 (1994). The Catalane plaintiff was 79 at time of termination.

New Jersey Courts in the past have found age discrimination in employment to be prohibited even as to older workers who are long-term employees. This is true even if the employer refuses to renew the contract of an older person, who has a long history of working for the employer. The New Jersey Supreme Court expanded the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to prohibit employers from discriminating against workers based on age when the employer refuses to renew a contract of an older worker who is a long-term employee.

In a 2010 case, Nini V. Mercer County Community College, 202 N.J. 98, 102 (2010), the Court held that the refusal to renew a contract of an employee who is 70 or older "was the equivalent of a termination, an act that fits squarely within the prohibitions of the LAD."

In this case, the Court had to interpret the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and determine whether the over-seventy exception, i.e., "nothing herein contained shall be construed to bar an employer from refusing to accept for employment or to promote any person over 70 years of age," applies to the non-renewal of an existing over age 70 employee's contract. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the non-renewal of an over age 70 employee's contract was similar to a prohibited termination because of age, and it did not fit into the law’s exception as to persons who were truly new job applicants. The Court held that the intent of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination would be obstructed if over age 70 workers did not have their contract renewed if age was a factor, even when the rehiring is optional and at the discretion of the employer, because it is the employee’s work history with the same employer that distinguishes a long-term employee from a truly new hire.

 

Contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, today for a free consultation.


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