Employers Must Have Anti-Harassment Policy Under Murphy Bill

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at the State of the State address in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Murphy, a Democrat, delivered his second State of the State speech Tuesday before a joint session of the Democrat-led Legislature, sketching his agenda for the year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW JERSEY, N.J. (WNBC) – Public and private employers in New Jersey would be required to put anti-harassment policies and training in place as part of a new proposal Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled on Tuesday.

Murphy announced the new bill alongside Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Civil Service Commissioner Deirdre Webster Cobb as well as anti-harassment advocates at his office in Trenton.

The bill comes as New Jersey is amid a reckoning on sexual misconduct, years after the #MeToo movement began shining a light on allegations of sexual assault and impropriety toward women at the hands of influential men.

“The message from survivors and advocates alike has been clear: It’s time for New Jersey to reject the norms of yesterday that overlooked workplace harassment and discrimination as business as usual,” Murphy said in a statement.

The proposal must still move through the Democrat-led Legislature before becoming law. Messages were left with legislative leaders seeking comment.

Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, introduced the governor on Tuesday. She said she’s committed to working with the state to make it a safer place to work.

“We’re at a critical moment of public reckoning here in New Jersey, with an increased level of understanding of the ways power and control impact the lives of New Jerseyans across sectors,” she said.

The bill would make a number of changes, including the mandate that employers come up with policies on how to prevent workplace discrimination. Among the other changes are a requirement for the state to come up with model policies and training to make compliance easier, as well as a requirement that employers with 50 or more workers collect and report data on harassment complaints to the state.

The legislation also specifies that a single incident can create a “hostile work environment” and that harassment need not involve physical touching.

Tuesday’s development comes after Murphy last week said the state would be evaluating its own workplace guidelines and standards for state employees.

Reporting in NJ.com late last year cited more than a dozen cases of misconduct alleged by women in lobbying as well as on legislative and campaign staffs, including unwanted touching and sexual assault.

That led Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to create a panel, including some of the state’s highest profile political leaders, to hear from women and map a way forward.

The panel’s first meeting last week included testimony from nearly a dozen people, some of whom also called for better anti-harassment training.

Murphy spotlighted the issue in his annual state of the state address, in which he called for putting an end to “pernicious sexism” in state politics.

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