NJ Law Against Discrimination Amended to Provide Greater Protection to Employees

Governor Phil Murphy recently signed new amendments to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) into law that provide employees entering into employment and settlement agreements with greater protections.

Effective March 18, 2019, any provisions included in an employment contract that require an employee to give up any substantive or procedural rights or remedies relating to claims of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment are unenforceable. For example, any provision that requires an employee to waive the right to a jury trial or which limits the types of damages that an employee may recover in an action under the LAD are deemed without force and effect. Thus, agreements that require employees to arbitrate their discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claims are no longer valid. However, applicable collective bargaining agreements are exempted from this prohibition.

The amendments also limit the enforceability of non-disclosure provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements. Specifically, any provision that requires a current or former employee to not disclose “the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” is unenforceable. However, should the employee reveal “sufficient details of the claim so that the employer is reasonable identifiable, then the non-disclosure provision shall also be unenforceable against the employer.”

Should an employee object to or refuse to sign an agreement which includes one or more of these prohibited provisions and then be fired, demoted, or suspended as a result, such adverse action will be considered retaliation under the LAD.

The news is not all good for employees. The amendments specifically confirm that an employer may require an employee to sign non-competition provisions as well as agreements that obligate the employee to not disclose proprietary information of the employer.

The foregoing amendments apply to all contracts and settlement agreements “entered into, renewed, modified, or amended” on or after March 18, 2019.