As awareness grows surrounding the issue of sexual harassment, in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements, many state legislatures, including New Jersey, are closely examining their sexual harassment policies. For the first time since its adoption in 2009, New Jersey’s state legislature’s sexual harassment policy is undergoing significant revisions.
In late September, both houses of the state legislature unanimously approved the adoption of a new, tougher sexual harassment policy, which sets forth some “zero tolerance” guidelines for state legislators.
The new guidelines set forth the process by which sexual harassment victims can report the alleged sexual misconduct while being afforded basic privacy protections. Findings of sexual misconduct would be subject to publication under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, but only with the consent of the complainant.
Individuals involved in sexual harassment investigations against state legislators and their employees would be subject to strict confidentiality rules. Any witness or involved person would face penalties for disclosing any information about ongoing investigations.
In addition to outlining specific acts that will be considered harassment or discrimination, the guidelines set forth an appeals process, and provide guidance on using outside counsel with respect to the handling of sexual harassment claims. The consequences of filing false claims also are addressed in the new guidelines.
At least one New Jersey legislator, Senate President Steve Sweeney, has identified himself of a victim of a false claim of sexual harassment filed in 2008.
Another new guideline states all 120 members of the New Jersey State Senate and State Assembly, as well as their staff members, will be required to attend mandatory sexual harassment prevention training at least once every two years.
New Jersey was one of just 17 states that did not provide sexual harassment and discrimination awareness programs for its legislators. A recent report by the Associated Press listed New Jersey’s old sexual harassment policy as one of the weakest in the nation.
Under the stricter sexual harassment policy, any individual doing business with the New Jersey state legislature now is subject to the new guidelines. This includes:
- All 80 members of the State Assembly and their staffs
- All 40 members of the State Senate and their staffs
- Third party staff
- District office staff
- Staff of the Office of Legislative Services
- Staff of the Assembly Office of Clerk
- Staff of the Senate Office of Clerk
- Media, including journalists
- Members of the public who conduct any business at the State House
The sexual harassment policy changes are the latest state-wide reforms aimed at strengthening victim’s rights in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, New Jersey state lawmakers introduced legislation which would make non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements related to sexual harassment settlements illegal in the state.
The latest guidelines will not apply retroactively to previously filed complaints against the state legislature. The passed bill will likely be signed into law by the end of the year.
Cape May County Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Levine Staller Handle Sexual Misconduct Cases in New Jersey
If you are an employer or employee currently involved in a sexual harassment claim, an experienced Cape May County sexual harassment lawyer at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. is here to help. With offices conveniently located in Atlantic City, New Jersey, we handle employment related matters throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County, and Ocean County. To schedule a confidential consultation today, call us at 609-348-1300 or contact us online.