Employment discrimination on the basis of age, especially against workers who are into or past what is often considered “middle age,” and who are looking for a job, does not always receive as much media attention as other forms of discrimination. The federal and state laws regarding this type of discrimination are also not as well known or understood. It is becoming more and more of a problem, however, as the American population ages. A few recent cases illustrate how an age discrimination claim in New Jersey might work.
Research regarding the issues faced by older workers indicates that people in their 50s or older tend to have a much harder time finding a job than younger workers. The discrimination is rarely overt, instead taking the form of certain reasons given not to hire someone, such as “You’re overqualified.” This can make discrimination difficult to prove, but the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) allows claims for age discrimination in employment. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a). The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., also allows civil claims, but it only applies to workers above a certain age in certain situations.
The NJLAD provides relatively strong protection for workers asserting age discrimination claims. New Jersey courts have held that the statute preempts common law claims, such as breach of contract or breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, if they are primarily based on alleged age discrimination. See Broad v. Home Depot USA, 16 F.Supp.3d 413, 419 (D.N.J. 2014). The ADEA protects workers who are 40 years of age or older against discrimination that is not based on a “reasonable factor other than age.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1625.7, 77 Fed. Reg. 19080 (Mar. 30, 2012). It also prohibits workplace harassment based on age. The statute does not, however, prohibit an employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one.
A lawsuit currently pending in a New Jersey federal court asserts causes of action for age discrimination and age-based hostile work environment under both the ADEA and the NJLAD. Ciecka v. The Cooper Health System, No. 1:15-cv-04075, complaint (D.N.J., Jun. 16, 2015). The 52-year-old plaintiff claims that he worked for the defendant as a radiologic technologist for 15 years. He alleges that the employer’s management began discriminating against him based on age during his last months of employment, including by “selectively enforcing policies against him (as opposed to his younger co-workers) and consistently subjecting him to derogatory age-related comments.” Id. at 3. He alleges that his termination in late 2014 was in retaliation for his complaints about this conduct.
In another case, the Borough Council in High Bridge, New Jersey voted in late May 2015 to approve the settlement of an age discrimination claim. The claimant, who was 54 years old at the time he claims the discrimination occurred, filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, typically a precursor to filing a lawsuit. He claimed that he had performed seasonal work for the borough but was rejected because of his age when he interviewed for a full-time position. The borough council authorized a settlement of up to $15,000 but maintained that age was not a factor in its decision not to hire him.
If you need to speak to an attorney about an age discrimination matter in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.
More Blog Posts:
Federal and State Law Prohibits Age Discrimination in Employment, Even in Traditionally “Young” Industries, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, February 13, 2015
Former Sales Executive Obtains $11.6 Million Verdict in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 12, 2014
Teacher Sues New York School, Alleging Discrimination and Firing Based on Age, Marital Status, Sex, and Sexual Orientation, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, July 7, 2014
Photo credit: daily sunny [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr.