New Jersey vows action after yearlong study of workplace sex harassment

David Madden
February 18, 2020 - 3:51 pm
Governor Murphy, AG, DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apt, NJCASA Exec Director Patricia Teffenhart, and CSC Chair Deirdre Webster Cobb announce legislation to overhaul New Jersey’s anti-workplace harassment law for public and private employers.

Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor's Office

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey legislators will consider a proposal to tighten laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace after complaints surfaced that the problem ran rampant for years within state government itself.

The state Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has led a yearlong study of conditions in public and private workplaces, and heard from more than 40 victims of all types at three public hearings.

Gov. Phil Murphy says their report suggests refining what constitutes a hostile working environment, require better training and extending time limits to file a complaint not just by paid workers, but unpaid interns as well.

"The behavior we are targeting has gone on for far too long," he said, "and while it is clear that our society has entered a season of reflection, reflection without action is of no use to anyone." 

Those suggestions will be codified into legislation to be introduced by State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who has conducted hearings of her own after reports of sexual harassment within state government surfaced in recent months.

Rachel Wainer Apter, director of the DCR, was called upon to coordinate the study with others who advocate for victims.

"Even as women make up nearly half of the workforce, sexual harassment persists in every sector of the economy," she said, "and it persists in housing and places of public accommodation as well." 

Policies will also be changed on state licensing boards, particularly within the casino industry. And those changes can be made unilaterally by the governor.