A pair of bills that would protect the rights and health of Garden State seniors were advanced by legislative panels.
A bill that would require the continuous publishing of data concerning COVID-19-related deaths and cases at long-term care (LTC) facilities was approved by the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37).
Meanwhile, a bill from the same Assembly committee sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) would expand age discrimination protections for New Jersey’s senior workforce.
Protecting New Jersey’s Seniors in LTC Facilities
The Vainieri Huttle bill would require the New Jersey Department of Health website to display data on the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state. It would require data from the start of the pandemic to be displayed.
Additionally, it would require the data to be displayed with a variety of filters, including specific LTC facilities and the most recent data, as permissible under existing state and federal laws governing medical privacy.
The bill would take effect immediately upon passage, and expire a year after the end of the current state of emergency and the public health emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This bill increases transparency by providing an easily accessible outlet for the public to see the most current data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in long-term care centers in our state,” wrote Vainieri Huttle.
Taking a Stand Against Age Discrimination
The DeCroce bipartisan bill was designed to prevent age discrimination in the workplace for those over the age of 70. She cited AARP-NJ, which said workers 65 and older were the fastest growing labor pool.
Under the law, public employers would not be permitted to force employees to retire at a certain age under a law that allows them to do so. Additionally, higher education institutions would not be able to require retirement at 70 years old. The law would not make changes to rules for Supreme Court justices and other judges, or those in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.
DeCroce noted some New Jersey seniors worked into their 70s as a way of contending with the state’s high cost of living; others, she argued, simply loved their careers and wanted to spend as much time as possible working in their fields.
Not Retiring at 65
“The exceptions to the age discrimination protections on the books are discriminatory,” explained DeCroce. “Current and potential employees should be evaluated on their skill sets, performance history and credentials – not the date on their birth certificates.”
Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle and Angela McKnight (D-31), cosponsors of the bill, noted not every worker has the luxury of retiring at age 65.
“Some will still need to work well into their golden years to be able to live independently. Others may simply want to keep working for their own personal fulfillment,” the two Democrats wrote. “In any case, older workers should be able to retire by their own volition, not because an employer forced them out solely because of their age. This discriminatory practice furthers unfounded assumptions about age and ability, and restricts opportunities for older adults in the workforce who may still need a source of income.”