Third Circuit Decision Eliminates Barrier to Age Discrimination Lawsuits
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. Since 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.”