In June 2009, I discussed the New Jersey Appellate Division’s age discrimination ruling that it is illegal for an employer not to renew an employment contract because the employee is over 70 years old. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently agreed, and affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision.
Specifically, in Nini v. Mercer County Community College, New Jersey’s highest court ruled that a company’s decision not to renew an employment contract is more like firing a current employee than deciding not to hire a job candidate. As a result, the Court concluded that even though the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) allows employers to refuse to hire employees because they are over 70 years old, that exception does not apply when a company decides not to renew an employee’s contract after he or she turns 70.
In explaining its decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that the purpose of the LAD is to protect New Jersey citizens “from all forms of discrimination in employment and, in particular, to protect our older citizens from being forced out of the workplace based solely on age.” It also indicated that the over 70 exception is meant to allow employers to avoid the cost of training new employees who have “limited long-term prospects.” However, that does not apply to an employee who already has been working for the company and does not need training.