Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

As a former employment lawyer and a Baby Boomer, I am dismayed that two recent federal appeals courts, one within the last month, have held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not protect older workers looking for jobs from disparate impact age discrimination, only those who already have jobs.

We are talking about the use of hiring criteria that might not expressly mention age but disfavor job candidates who have too much experience or who graduated too many years ago—factors which correlate closely with age. Continue reading Federal Courts Limit Hiring Protections for Older Workers

MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

State legislation to create a retirement savings program for private sector workers took a step forward last week.

On October 15, the New Jersey Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee approved A-4134, the Secure Choice Savings Program Act, by a vote of  8-to-3, with 2 committee members not voting.

We all know that Social Security, as helpful and necessary as it is, is not enough for seniors to live on. According to figures from AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons), the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit in New Jersey is $1,377/month. Just try living on that in this state, where the average monthly rental for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,199 per month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. With utilities, food, clothing, medical expenses and other expenses, the math simply does not add up.  Continue reading MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

BILL WOULD END SECRET SEX HARASS SETTLEMENTS, PRESERVE RIGHT TO SUE FOR DISCRIMINATION

Last month, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law legislation meant to make sure that how much you are paid at work does not depend on your gender, race, age, religion or any other personal characteristic covered by NJ’s broad anti-discrimination law.

Another important bill also intended to protect equality in the workplace, is now moving through the Legislature and was voted out of the Senate Labor Committee on March 5 and the Assembly Labor Committee on May 10.

The legislation, S-121/A-1242, would prevent companies from requiring that workers or job applicants agree up front to relinquish their right to sue for discrimination or harassment or any other substantive or procedural right related to a claim for discrimination in order to keep their jobs or get hired in the first place. It would apply also to retaliation claims—where an employer fired or took some other adverse action against someone for complaining of discriminatory conduct.

In addition, the bill would outlaw the secret settlement of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, also referred to as “non-disclosure agreements, the sort repeatedly used by movie producer Harvey Weinstein when he paid off his accusers, allowing him to keep sexually assaulting and harassing women for decades.

Continue reading BILL WOULD END SECRET SEX HARASS SETTLEMENTS, PRESERVE RIGHT TO SUE FOR DISCRIMINATION

LANDMARK EQUAL PAY BILL AWAITS SIGNATURE

The State of New Jersey is poised to enact a law that will provide the strongest equal pay protections in the U.S., on either the state or federal level.

The legislation, S-104, goes further than the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Act, a federal law, which overturned federal court precedent limiting the time in which women could sue over discriminatory pay practices and how much they could recover if they won.

Among other protections that exceed those in the federal, law, the NJ legislation allows recovery of up to six years of back pay, provides for treble damages and prohibits employers from requiring existing workers or new hires to waive their legal rights as a condition of employment. It specifically bars any waiver of the two-year time limit for filing suit. (A 2014 state appellate court decision, Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture, had found such a waiver, one that shortened the time to sue to only six months, was enforceable but the state Supreme Court reversed in 2016.)

The proposed law applies not just to female employees but to any class of employees shielded by the broad scope of NJ’s Law Against Discrimination, or LAD. The LAD’s 17 protected categories include race, color, national origin, disability, age, affectional/sexual orientation, military status and genetic information.

Continue reading LANDMARK EQUAL PAY BILL AWAITS SIGNATURE

STRIKE SAID TO TEST FUTURE OF UNIONS

When 40,000 Verizon workers—including about 4,600 in New Jersey—went on strike last year, I read a lot of news stories about it and on my trips to New York City, I saw people walking the picket line. The strike ended after almost two months, with both sides claiming victory and it appeared the workers had come out ahead—winning pension increases, ratification bonuses, new call center jobs and other concessions.

Continue reading STRIKE SAID TO TEST FUTURE OF UNIONS

COURT NIXES RULE LIMITING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

A two-year-old rule that makes it harder to collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey has been struck down in court.

On May 1, a three-judge Appellate Division panel invalidated N.J.A.C. 12:17-2.1 as arbitrary and capricious, finding it illogical and confusing and calling it a “linguistic morass, one that cannot be readily or sensibly understood and applied.”

Continue reading COURT NIXES RULE LIMITING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

ATTEMPT TO OVERRIDE EQUAL PAY LAW VETO THWARTED FOR NOW

An attempt to pass a law that would require equal pay for women in New Jersey was thwarted on January 23 when it became apparent that sponsors did not have the votes to override Governor Chris Christie’s veto of the same bill last May.

The effort came three days after the Trump inauguration, two days after millions of women marched against him and the same day that Trump re-instated the Reagan-era global gag rule – the prohibition on U.S. funding for international organizations that provide information about abortion, even if none of the American dollars go to pay for abortions.

The New Jersey legislation, S-992, would be a state version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama, on January 29, 2009, about a week after he took office.

Continue reading ATTEMPT TO OVERRIDE EQUAL PAY LAW VETO THWARTED FOR NOW

Nurses, health care workers ratify new contracts at Christ Hospital and Bayonne Medical Center

Re-post from NJBiz | Written by Beth Fitzgerald

Nurses and other health care workers at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and Bayonne Medical Center on Wednesday ratified new union contracts that include a 1.5 percent pay raise, increased employer matching contributions for workers’ retirement plans and increased staffing levels at both hospitals.

The new labor contracts represented by the 12,000 member Health Professionals and Allied Employees union cover 400 nurses at Christ Hospital and 850 nurses and health care professionals at Bayonne Medical Center.

HPAE said in a statement that employee health insurance contributions will not increase during the term of the contract, which expires June 30, 2015.

HPAE said improved nurse-to-patient ratios at both hospitals is a key component of the contracts. The agreement provides for more nurses for hospital units, including medical surgical, intensive care, emergency department, oncology and maternal child health.

“Our first priority throughout these negotiations was to set strong standards for patient safety and quality care — and we did that,” said Nicole Mankowski, president, HPAE local at Christ Hospital.

Retirement benefits were also improved, with an increase of the employer matching contribution to 2 percent for Christ Hospital, and an increase of 1 percent for Bayonne Medical Center.

“Improvements in staffing will help recruit staff and improvements of retirement benefits should help retain our valuable experienced staff,” said John Bauer, president, HPAE local at Bayonne Medical Center.

“HPAE members, elected officials and community leaders were instrumental in achieving strong staffing improvements in both of our contracts,” said Ann Twomey, president, HPAE union.  “Our first priority throughout these negotiations was to set strong standards for patient safety and care in both the Bayonne and Jersey City communities.”

“CarePoint Health is very pleased that we have brought our negotiations with HPAE to resolution without any labor disruption affecting hospital patients, workers or the communities we serve,” said Jennifer Dobin, vice president of human resources at CarePoint Health, which owns the two hospitals.

She said CarePoint and the union reached terms in the early hours of July 31, following an extended bargaining session, and the issues resolved in the new contracts cover  compensation, retirement benefits, health insurance contributions and hospital staffing.

“We want to thank the HPAE and all stakeholders that contributed to the dialogue and helped us reach satisfying results for all parties,” Dobin said. “In the end, we are all committed to maintaining our hospitals’ standards of excellence in patient care.”

Christ Hospital, Bayonne Medical Center reach tentative agreements with union

Re-post from NJBiz | Written by Beth Fitzgerald

Tentative collective bargaining agreements have been reached between hospital workers and the owners of Christ Hospital in Jersey City and Bayonne Medical Center, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union announced Thursday. HPAE said workers at the two hospitals will vote on the tentative contracts next week, and said it would not disclose details until then.

Jeanne Otersen, policy director for HPAE, said, “We made what we believe are significant improvements in (the) staffing level at both hospitals.”

The agreements also enhance retirement security for the workers and “protects many elements of health insurance coverage,” she said.

The agreements would be in place until June 30, 2015. HPAE said it represents more than 1,200 nurses and other health care workers between the two hospitals.

The negotiations had been contentious: After CarePoint raised the possibility of a lockout, the union rallied support from local elected officials.

“The support of our elected officials and community leaders made a major difference to our ability to include strong staffing improvements in both of our contracts,” said Ann Twomey, president of the 12,000 member HPAE.

The two hospitals are owned by the for-profit CarePoint Health, which also owns a third Hudson County Hospital, Hoboken University Medical Center.

Union Criticizes Handling of Hospital’s Finances

Re-post from NJSpotlight | Written by Andrew Kitchenman

Hospital leader defends approach, while health commissioner is asked to appoint temporary manager of facility

A labor union representing workers at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center is demanding that the state step up its fiscal oversight of the for-profit hospital after it eliminated more than 100 jobs.

The Health Professionals and Allied Employees and the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center sent a letter to state Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd on Friday reiterating their request for appointment of a temporary manager for the Secaucus hospital.

Continue reading Union Criticizes Handling of Hospital’s Finances