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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When my NJ Employer Wants "New Blood"

Businesses understandably seek innovative and new practices to expand their profits and please shareholders. Public entity employers often want to be more effective in achieving their goals.

However, an employer seeking out "new blood" to implement their plan could be a euphemism demonstrating an intention to replace older workers with younger recruits. Unfortunately, employers wanting younger “new blood” is a pattern that is all too familiar to many older workers.

In one high profile “new blood” case in 2017, Kean University agreed to pay $375,000 to settle an age discrimination suit. In this matter, a former employee administrator sued Kean University alleging he was denied a promotion due to age discrimination. In this matter, the former administrator had been employed by the college for 30 years. He alleged in his lawsuit that he was passed up for the promotion because his supervisor wanted "new blood" in the department. He was 55 years old at the time.

In another “new blood” age discrimination case, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in a lawsuit brought by an employee against the employer, a college, that the employer’s refusal to renew a contract of an older worker, while simultaneously seeking out new and younger blood was illegal age discrimination under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination. Nini v. Mercer County Cmty. College, 202 N.J. 98.

In Nini, the employee alleged that prior to her employer telling her that they were not going to renew her contract, people at meetings with department heads discussed age and being "dead wood." She also alleged that at these meetings, employees made jokes about getting rid of the oldest employees. Worse, she alleged that another employee had told her that the college HR Director stated that the college had to "get rid of old-timers” and “bring in new blood."

In Nini, the employee Nini met with the president of the college in 2004 to discuss her performance evaluations. The employee alleged that the president made several ageist remarks, such as about her still working at her age. After working for the college for 26 years, the employee was advised that her contract that was set to expire in June 2005 would not be renewed as it had been in the past. At the time, the employee was over 70 years old.

In September 2004, Nini sent a letter to the Board Chairman requesting review of the events surrounding her nonrenewal. She stated in her letter that she believed her age was the reason for her nonrenewal .When she received no response, she sent another letter alleging that the college took retaliatory measures against her because of her first letter. The college sent her a letter that confirmed that her contract would not be renewed and would expire on June 30, 2005.

In September of 2005, the employee filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination and retaliation by the college. The Defendant college filed a motion for summary judgment. The Superior Court found in favor of the college, but the Appellate Division reversed the ruling by the lower Superior Court on grounds that the over-seventy exception to unlawful discrimination in hiring, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a) should not be interpreted to equate contract nonrenewals of employees (such as Nini) who had preexisting relationship with the employer in the same manner as a new hire. The Appellate Division held that that in situations where the employee such as Nini had a pre-existing employee-employer relationship, it was not really a "new hire", and in these instances that a contract nonrenewal should be considered termination, not a failure to hire. The Defendant college then filed for the Supreme Court to hopefully hear the matter. The Court accepted the case, and held that the refusal to renew the contract of an employee over seventy years old, on the basis of age, is prohibited discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

Since this case was heard by the NJ Supreme Court, there have been other instances where employees alleged that their employer wanting “new blood” was illegal age discrimination.

What You Can Do

If you believe that your employer used age or some other prohibited factor such as sex, race etc., as the determining factor as to who to keep and who to let go, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination. I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in representing older workers, the disabled and other minorities. I accept discrimination cases from all over New Jersey.

If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

New Jersey employment attorney, Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout the state, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Southern, Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients.



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