Articles Tagged with “New Jersey age discrimination”

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The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

New Jersey employment law has long been at the forefront of prohibiting discrimination.  Indeed, the Legislature adopted New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination in 1945, long before the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 first banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, and even before the President Harry Truman’s Executive Order desegregating the Armed Forces in 1948.  The Lawtenure-male-thumb-270x180-49202-thumb-200x133-49203 Against Discrimination has been amended many times since then to expand the protections against discrimination in employment, and decisions by New Jersey courts have interpreted the Law to provide much broader protections than those provided by similar Federal statutes such as the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (known as the “ADEA”).  However, the Law Against Discrimination is not without its flaws.  The New Jersey Legislature acted in 2021 to fix one of these flaws by strengthening the protections against age discrimination.

Prior Loopholes in Age Discrimination Protections

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New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits employment discrimination, including age discrimination.  In interpreting this state law, New Jersey courts look to federal employment law, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the “ADEA,” passed by Congress in 1967.  A recent case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed a typical issue in age discrimination cases.  Sincejudge-gavel-1461998219JBc-300x200 the Third Circuit hears federal appeals from the Federal District Courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the United States Virgin Islands, the case, Martinez v. UPMC Susquehanna, is binding on New Jersey cases under the ADEA.  However, it is also influential on how New Jersey state courts will interpret the Law Against Discrimination.


Zeferino Martinez, M.D., was a board certified orthopedic surgeon who had four decades of experience practicing medicine.  At the time of these events he was seventy years old.  A hospital hired Doctor Martinez in 2016 with a three year contract; he was the hospital’s only orthopedic surgeon.  In 2017, UPMC Susquehanna purchased the hospital and took over its management.  One month later UPMC’s chief operating officer and the executive director of UPMC’s musculoskeletal division fired Martinez.  They explained only that UPMC was “moving in a different direction and [Martinez’s] services were no longer needed,” and that his termination “had nothing to do with [his] performance.”

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Some important New Jersey employment law issues were explored in a recent opinion issued by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court concerning the Newsupreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200 Jersey Law Against Discrimination in the case of Kazaba versus Randolph Township Board of Education.

The Kazaba Case

Charles Kazaba sued the Randolph Township Board of Education for age discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination in Law Division of the State Superior Court  for allegedly taking discriminatory actions against him because of his age. He was a security for the Board for more than 21 years and had no disciplinary record.  For many years Kazaba was the only security guard, but at some point the Board hired additional, younger security guards with prior law enforcement experience (these were referred to as the “Ram Guards” after the high school’s mascot).  At sixty years of age he was the oldest security guard.  He claimed that his supervisors took a course of or actions favoring the younger Ram Guards and making his job more difficult because he was older.

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creative-signstop-age-discrimination-260nw-520754950-300x215Amazingly, despite the law being clear for many years that age discrimination in employment is illegal, and despite the fact that both research and experience have shown the value of mature workers, age discrimination against older employees continues to be widespread in New Jersey and the country at large.  Both the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination provide strict prohibitions against employers and supervisors discriminating against older employees.

Sometimes, however, the boundaries of these laws are unclear, and guidance from the Courts is required.  On November 6, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued an important decision affecting the rights of state and local government employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Mount Lemmon Fire District Case and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act

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Thumbnail image for discrimination.jpgFederal employment law, in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”),prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating in compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of a person’s age. Case law has evolved over time regarding the extent to which age needs to influence employer decisions for the employer to violate the ADEA. A 2009 Supreme Court decision made a distinction between the ADEA’s prohibition against age discrimination and federal law prohibiting so-called status-based discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Title VII finds an employer culpable for employment practices for which race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is “a motivating factor,” even if other factors also motivated the practice.

When an employee claiming age discrimination tried to use the “motivating factor” standard for the court’s decision, the Supreme Court disagreed that the standard was appropriate for age discrimination, instead turning to the language in the age discrimination law specifically, which states, “It shall be unlawful for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.” The Supreme Court found that the “because of” language brought the issue back to a term familiar in the legal realm, “but-for” causation — the idea that “but for” discrimination against the person’s age, the employer’s action would not have occurred. As applied in that way, the standard requires an employee to show that employer’s action (such as hiring and firing decisions) would not have occurred in the absence of age discrimination. That standard is harder to prove than proving that age discrimination was one of possibly other motivating factors.

Although the case itself and case law that followed emphasized that the decision reflected a distinction between the age discrimination law and discrimination for other reasons (such as race and religion), the reasoning behind the case has begun to seep into case law about other forms of discrimination. A 2013 case held that similar to the 2009 decision on age discrimination, a civil rights claim of unlawful employer retaliation for status-based discrimination requires proof that the desire to retaliate was the but-for cause of the challenged employment action (Univ. of Tex. Southwestern Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct. 978 (2013)).
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