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What you cannot consider when hiring an employee

Sorting through a stack of resumes can be overwhelming. There may be many candidates that seem qualified, but you are worried they will not be a good fit for the company. Or maybe someone seems highly intelligent, but he or she lacks experience. It may seem impossible to know how to make the right choice. Certainly, there must be another way to narrow the field. Be careful. You may be stumbling into murky territory.

New Jersey has more protected classes

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws regarding discrimination in employment. The federal government prevents discrimination based on skin color, race, religious beliefs, gender, national origin, age, genetic makeup, or disability. It is important to note gender discrimination includes gender identity, sexual orientation, and if someone is pregnant. In New Jersey, employment discrimination protection is also extended to marital status and military service.

Age discrimination extended to more employees

Another distinction between federal and New Jersey law is regarding age discrimination. Federal law only protects employees over 40, but New Jersey protects workers under 40 as well. However, if a potential employee is 70 and over, he or she cannot bring an age discrimination suit. That same person could sue for age discrimination, if however, he or she is already your employee. Under state law, any employee that wins an age discrimination suit may be able to receive compensatory and punitive damages.

Disability definition broader in New Jersey

According to the EEOC, The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAA) broadened the way the federal government viewed disabilities. The ADAA allowed more flexibility in what is viewed as a substantial limitation to qualify as disabled. However, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides an even broader definition of disability. Employees or potential employees are also protected against discrimination for physical illnesses, diseases, speech impediments, and mental and psychological ailments. These NJLAD protections include most companies in New Jersey. Any New Jersey business with one employee must comply with the guidelines. As long as the potential employee can still perform job tasks, they should not be denied the position due to their disability.

A disabled employee also has the right to reasonable accommodations. If they cannot perform their job tasks due to some limitations in your office, they have the right to request these issues be fixed or accommodations be made. Reasonable accommodations include the ability to navigate around the office, use office equipment, and any needed schedule changes. There are rare exceptions when not hiring a disabled person is permitted, like if hiring him or her would endanger the safety of other employees.

The hiring process can seem endless. However, New Jersey provides its citizens with broad protections from employment discrimination. As an employer, you must make sure you do not eliminate anyone based on a trait, condition, or lifestyle that is protected by law.

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