Despite the existence of federal and state laws that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of age, a high percentage of the individuals who call our office every day do so because of age discrimination.
An Aging Workforce
Studies show that the American workforce is, and has been, aging. The effects of the Great Recession impacted workers who were nearing retirement. Many of those employees, even those who did not lose their jobs during the economic downturn, were adversely affected by falling home values and the declining stock market. Yet others, who remained employed, took on added financial responsibility for adult children who became unemployed. Those factors caused widespread delays in retirement. The trend of Americans remaining in the workforce long after traditional retirement ages was not, however, limited to the period of the Great Recession. Instead, studies show that this trend continues. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 30% of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 will still be working by 2022.
While recent research shows that older workers benefit employers because statistically they tend to be experienced and loyal, can hit the ground running, and have life-long perspectives that lend to complex problem solving, this group of workers continues to be subject to increasing discrimination because of outdated, outmoded, and incorrect perceptions. Shockingly, a 2013 AARP report found that 64 percent of workers between the ages of 45 and 74 witnessed or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Sadly, 93% of those workers reported that age discrimination is common. Studies further show that most workers are likely to experience discrimination in their 50s - a relatively young age during which employees have the greatest earning potential.
The devastation reaped upon workers who are targeted because of their age often has long-term consequences. For example, most "older" workers have a difficult time finding replacement work after being laid off or terminated. When they do find replacement work, the pay and benefits tend to be less favorable than that provided by their former jobs. This impact is particularly pronounced for female workers.
Age Discrimination in New Jersey
Age discrimination, or the treatment of someone unfavorably due to their age, is prohibited by both state and federal law. In New Jersey, the statute making age discrimination illegal is set out in N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. The law holds that age discrimination based on the age of any employee is illegal, whether the employee is targeted for being older or younger. New Jersey's age discrimination law is broader than federal law, which only makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals 40 years or older.
Age discrimination is not always obvious, and any employee who suspects they have been discriminated against due to their age should contact an employment law attorney right away. Some factors that may support an inference of age discrimination include a prior strong performance record, replacement by a substantially younger employee(s), and/or documented instances of ageist comments by your employer.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because of your age, our New Jersey Employment Attorneys at Lenzo & Reis, LLC, can help. Our firm regularly represents New Jersey employees facing discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at work. Contact us today at (973) 845-9922 for a free case evaluation.