Murphy endorses stronger law against workplace sexual harassment
Gov. Phil Murphy endorsed new legislation Tuesday that would update the state’s laws against workplace sexual harassment for public and private employers.
The bill, which will be sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who is spearheading a series of hearings into the toxic culture of New Jersey politics, was drafted after a year-long review of the state’s discrimination laws by the state Division on Civil Rights.
Among the changes Murphy endorses is language that makes clear a hostile work environment can be created by a single incident and that harassment need not involve physical touching.
“The behavior we are targeting has gone on for far too long. And while it is clear that our society has entered a season of reflection, reflection without action is of no use to anyone,” said Murphy, who has been dogged by questions about the culture that was allowed to exist on his 2017 campaign.
Asked repeatedly about those issues Tuesday, Murphy repeated the general apology he has issued previously and pledged to do better in his next campaign.
“Far too many people have suffered quietly at their place of work, feeling degraded and let down by the same law that is intended to protect against this intolerable behavior,” Murphy said. “It is my hope that, with these changes, no one will experience this mistreatment again.”
Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she and other advocates “do not have any false beliefs that any one action will solve these issues.”
“We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey,” Teffenhart said. “We need to clarify the legal gray areas. We need to invest in training. We need to strengthen our policies and expand our statutes of limitations to be more trauma informed. And we need to support individuals when they come forward.”
The legislation announced Tuesday would extend the statute of limitations for cases brought under the Law Against Discrimination from two years to three. It would extend the deadline for filing a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights from 180 days to one year.
It would also require all public and private employers would have to have workplace policies and training on discrimination and harassment. Employers with at least 50 workers would have to file data annually with the state about complaints. And domestic workers and unpaid interns would be added to Law Against Discrimination protections.
The state Division of Gaming Enforcement is creating new rules to protect casino workers from sexual harassment and discrimination, and the Division of Consumer Affairs will review how its 51 professional boards, which oversee around 720,000 licensed professionals, handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
“Today marks an important day in New Jersey’s history,” said Garden State Equality deputy director Alisha DeLorenzo. “Together we are pulling back the curtain on a culture of toxic masculinity, stained by the privileged and those in power, that has existed for far too long.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.