The largest growing demographic of workers in the Garden State also appears to be subject to the last socially acceptable prejudice, according to advocates looking to nix examples of age discrimination that are still permitted in New Jersey.

In New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, it is noted that employers are not barred from refusing to hire or promote individuals who are over the age of 70.

Rules on the books in New Jersey also allow colleges and universities to force tenured employees to retire at the age of 70, and permits governmental employers to require the retirement of a worker based on age, if the institution can show "that the retirement age bears a manifest relationship to the employment in question."

"We have folks who are living longer, which is wonderful, but in return they're working longer," said Stephanie Hunsinger, state director for AARP New Jersey.

An AARP study finds 3 in 5 older workers reported seeing or experiencing age discrimination on the job, "even before we had the record-breaking unemployment that we currently have due to the pandemic," Hunsinger said.

Workers are being judged by their age and not by the value or skill set that they bring to a job, suggests the group that lobbies for people over the age of 50.

The 65+ population makes up about 21% of New Jersey's workforce, and they're projected to represent about 35% of the workforce by 2022, Hunsinger added.

Hoping to re-spark discussions that halted prior to the coronavirus pandemic, AARP New Jersey is calling on lawmakers to "fix the problem" by moving forward with legislation that targets age discrimination.

Under A681, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, and S397, sponsored by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, New Jersey would scrap language that permits employers to refuse to take on or promote an employee over 70 years of age, and block age-based retirement requirements by public employers and institutions of higher education.

The measures also change the current law to ensure that someone who's forced to retire due to age may seek all remedies provided by law for other forms of discrimination, including punitive damages.

"Unlike other forms of discrimination, those illegally forced to retire currently because of their age are limited to filing a complaint with the Attorney General, with potential relief limited to reinstatement with back pay and interest," Hunsinger said.

The bill in the Assembly was up for discussion in early March, but the Senate version has seen any action.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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