The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes age discrimination illegal, but it also says “nothing herein shall be construed to bar an employer from refusing to accept for employment or to promote any person over 70 years of age.” Now a court has decided that exception doesn’t apply to continuing employment.
Rose Nini worked as dean of corporate and community programs at Mercer County Community College for many years. Her contract came up for renewal every three years and called for the college to provide one year’s notice if it was going to choose not to retain Nini.
In June 2004, the college told Nini it would not renew her contract when it expired in June 2005. Nini was over 70 at the time. Although she had never had any negative evaluations, the HR director told her the college had to “get rid of the old-timers and bring in new blood.”
Nini wrote several letters challenging the decision. The college’s attorney conceded she could make a case for age discrimination. As a compromise, the college offered her a six-month contract extension. Nini filed suit instead.
Initially, the state trial court ruled that Nini was no longer covered by the NJLAD because she is over 70. She appealed to the State Appellate Division who ruled that the “over 70” exception only applied to new hires and promotions. Since the contract renewal was the equivalent of keeping her existing job, she was protected.
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