Early this year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced proposed legislation that would revamp the state’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. Among the proposed changes that would impact NJ employers is a requirement to provide interactive training on preventing unlawful discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment.
The legislation is similar to state and local laws in New York, New York City, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, and Delaware that seek to prevent sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and ultimately change workplace cultures. New Jersey’s proposed bill would go into effect one year after being enacted. While the bill goes through the legislative process, NJ organizations should consider taking proactive steps to review their harassment policies and procedures and consider adopting training models that are more interactive, relevant, and effective for today’s modern workforce.
Proposed Legislation Overhauls Law Against Discrimination
The proposed legislation follows a report by the Division on Civil Rights based on a year-long review of the state’s discrimination laws. Highlights of the amendments to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) include:
- Hostile work environment standard: The legislation codifies the judicial “severe or pervasive” standard for establishing a hostile work environment, as well as clarifies that a single incident can create a hostile work environment and that harassment does not require physical touching.
- Mandatory anti-discrimination and harassment policy: All employers must adopt a written non-discrimination policy establishing policies and procedures concerning unlawful workplace discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment.
- Employer liability: An employer is liable for unlawful harassment engaged in by either employees or non-employees (including vendors, suppliers, customers, clients and patrons) if “the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knew or should have known of the harassing conduct and failed to take appropriate preventive or corrective action.” However, for cases involving the acts of non-employees, “consideration shall be given to the extent of the entity’s control and any other responsibility that the entity may have with respect to the conduct of those non-employees.”
- Mandatory reporting: Employers with 50 or more employees must collect data on complaints received regarding unlawful workplace discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, and report such data to the DCR annually.
- Longer statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for LAD cases is lengthened from two years to three years and the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with DCR is extended from 180 days to one year.
- Broader definition of employee: Domestic workers and unpaid interns are now employees protected by the LAD. Domestic workers are included for the purposes of claims under the act, but training is not required at this time.
Mandated training under the new law would require:
- All new employees must be trained within 90 days of initial hire
- All employees must be trained at least once every two years
- Supervisory employees must be trained on additional topics, including: Their specific responsibilities for preventing discrimination and harassment and the prohibitions against retaliation
- Employers must review their training annually to ensure continued compliance with the law
- Employers must keep training records for at least three years
The bill specifies that at the minimum training will be required to include:
- A statement that unlawful discrimination or harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated and is considered a form of employee misconduct
- A statement that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in discrimination or harassment and against supervisor and managers who knowingly allow such behavior to continue
- A definition of unlawful discrimination and unlawful harassment in employment
- Examples of discriminatory and harassing behaviors
- A description of the process for filing internal complaints about discrimination or harassment
- Directions on how to contact the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights if a person believes their rights were violated
- A description of the prohibition on retaliation against those who disclose, report, participate in an investigation of, or otherwise challenge such discrimination or harassment
- Examples of retaliatory behaviors prohibited by the nondiscrimination policy
- Information about bystander intervention
Build a positive, respectful workplace culture today, the TechUnited team can help you get started.
We know that evaluating Sexual Harassment Training is at the forefront of many of your agendas and TechUnited is happy to assist by recommending the award-winning Preventing Discrimination and Harassment training from our partner, Traliant.