Murphy signs bill protecting older workers in New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to the press. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Tuesday that strengthens protections against ageism in the workplace.

The legislation essentially closes loopholes that allow employers not to hire or promote workers over 70 years old. It also eliminates government and university employers’ ability to mandate retirement at 70.

“Age discrimination, like every other form of discrimination, undermines the principles that we hold in the highest regard equality of opportunity, autonomy, and respect,” Murphy said. “And employers who engage in these practices reinforce the idea that certain groups of people have less worth than others.”

The law allows people unjustly fired or forced into retirement because of their age to sue their employers for punitive damages.

New Jersey officials pointed to statistics from AARP that showed two-thirds of workers over 45 have seen or experienced age discrimination in the work place.

New Jersey State Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle championed the bill in the state legislature. She says COVID-related layoffs placed a hyper focus on protecting older workers.

“You know, as people stay in the workforce longer, and with 35% of the workforce projected to be age 50 and older by actually next year, 2022, it is certainly a critical need to prevent age discrimination,” she said.

Officials said these protections are intended to protect the financial independence of seniors and their families, while preserving the wealth of knowledge experienced workers bring to the table.

The governor noted that the same day he signed this measure, Princeton professor Syukuro Manabe won the Nobel Prize for physics.

Manabe was recognized for his work on climate change modeling. He is 90 years young.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal