The state Supreme Court has settled a five-year-old age discrimination suit filed against Mercer County Community College by its former dean of corporate and community programs, Rose Nini.
Nini had filed a suit in 2005, claiming that MCCC president Robert Rose told her then that she “had no business working at [her] age,” which at the time was 73. Nini had worked for the college for 26 years and as a non-faculty employee was subject to serial contract renewal, according to the filing. In 2005, she claimed, Rose told her that her contract would not be renewed. Nini also claimed that Rose and others routinely made fun of some older employees’ ages, even referring to them as “dead weight,” and commenting that people “lose their effectiveness” after 25 years on a job.
On June 1 the Supreme Court in Trenton ruled that it is illegal to refuse contract renewal because of an employee’s age, and that the law applies as it would to “at will” employees.
Nini’s attorney, Steven Blader of Quakerbridge Road-based Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein, & Blader, stated after the decision that Nini’s case changes the law offering protection for older contract workers.
The case had taken numerous turns until it got to the state Supreme Court. Originally, a trial judge ruled that the college had given Nini ample time to learn her contract would not be renewed. That decision was swiftly overturned by an appellate judge who equated the non-renewal with termination.
The college, represented by Cherry Hill attorney Thomas F. Gallagher of Cozen O’Connor, and Nini settled financially last year, but the case is viewed as an important decision in employment law.
Just two years prior to the suit Nini and Rose joined hands to unveil Mercer’s conference center. That unveiling was the subject of a U.S. 1 cover story on January 8, 2003. By this point, Nini had been dean of CCP for 18 years and was respected for having built an enterprise for corporate education and training that received no government subsidies.
She also carved a niche in helping older students go back to college. Nini herself did not go back to college until she was in her 40s and in 1976 became the oldest female graduate of Princeton University.
Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein, & Blader PC, 101 Grovers Mill Road, Quakerbridge Executive Center, Suite 200, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-275-0400; fax, 609-275-4511. Barry D. Szaferman, managing partner. Home page: www.szaferman.com