Sexual Harassment Training New Jersey

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On February 18, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced broad legislation to combat harassment in the workplace, including a requirement that all employers provide training on unlawful harassment and discrimination. The announcement comes after a year-long review by the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. 

The proposed legislation contains training requirements similar to legislation adopted in several other states, including New York and California. However, the New Jersey legislation goes even further in a number of important ways.

The Proposed Training Requirements

Under the proposed legislation, beginning one year after enactment, all employers in New Jersey would be required to provide all employees interactive training on preventing unlawful workplace harassment and discrimination.

After the initial training, all employees would be required to be retrained at least once every two years.

The training must cover the following topics, which must also be included in the employer’s written non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies:

  • Definitions of unlawful discrimination and harassment based on protected categories under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)
  • Examples of discriminatory and harassing conduct prohibited by law
  • A statement that unlawful discrimination or harassment in the workplace is not tolerated and is considered a form of employee misconduct
  • A statement that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in such misconduct, as well as against supervisory employees who knowingly allow such behavior to continue
  • Description of potential consequences for violating the policy
  • Statement that these policies apply to all employees in interactions with other employees as well as with vendors, suppliers, customers, clients, and patrons
  • Statement of the employer’s commitment to conducting prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations of complaints of discrimination or harassment
  • Explanation of bystander intervention
  • Description of the process and contact information for filing internal complaints
  • Information on how to contact the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights to file a complaint of, or seek advice regarding discrimination or harassment
  • Prohibition on retaliation against those who disclose, report, participate in an investigation of, or otherwise challenge such discrimination or harassment and examples of retaliatory conduct prohibited by the policy
  • Statute of limitations periods applicable to filing a claim of unlawful discrimination and harassment under the NJLAD

In addition to the training requirements above, supervisory employees would also need to receive additional training on:

  • Supervisor responsibilities preventing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
  • Corrective actions supervisors may take to address complaints and instances of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation

Employers would be required to keep and maintain training records for at least three years. They would also be required to review their training annually to ensure its compliance.

Finally, employers with 50 or more employees would be required to provide the training live in an in-person setting in which participants can ask questions. These large employers would also be required to provide interpretation for any employee who does not speak English as their primary language, and has limited or no ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.

The state attorney general or the Director of the Division of Civil Rights would have the authority to enforce violations of the training requirements.

Other Changes in the Proposed Bill

In addition to the training requirements outlined above, the bill would make the following changes to New Jersey’s discrimination laws. It would:

  • Require all employers in the state establish workplace policies on unlawful harassment and discrimination. 
  • Provide clarification on the “severe or pervasive” standard for establishing a hostile work environment, making clear that a single incident can create a hostile work environment and that physical touching need not be involved for harassment to occur.
  • Develop a standard for employer liability for hostile environment harassment engaged in by both employees and non-employees
  • Require the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights to create model policies to help facilitate compliance.
  • Require employers with 50 or more employees to collect and report to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights data on complaints regarding workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
  • Expand the scope of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to include unpaid interns and domestic workers.
  • Extend the statute of limitations for cases brought under the NJLAD to three years.
  • Extend the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights to one year.

Impetus for the Proposed Legislation

After a year long study, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights published a report “Preventing and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in New Jersey,” which focused on sexual harassment. The report noted that while sexual harassment affects people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations, because sexual harassment is often rooted in power imbalances, marginalized communities are often the most vulnerable. These groups include women of color, immigrants, domestic workers, and the LGBTQ+.

The report also outlined best practices for employers, including recommendations that organizations adopt comprehensive policies addressing sexual harassment training reinforced through effective training. 

Next Steps

The legislation proposed by Governor Murphy must go through the New Jersey legislature, led by Democrats, before it becomes law. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg is expected to introduce the legislation soon.

Prior to announcing this new bill, Governor Murphy indicated that the state would be reviewing its workplace guidelines and standards for state employees. Murphy also highlighted sexual harassment in his state of the state address this year.

Clear Law Institute will continue to report on future developments regarding this new legislation in New Jersey.

Why Clear Law Institute?

Hundreds of employers rely on Clear Law Institute to provide online sexual harassment training to their employees across the country because our training:

  • Complies with all 50 states’ laws, including New Jersey law
  • Provides users with the ability to ask questions and have those questions answered, as required by several states
  • Is kept up-to-date with any changes in the law at no additional charge
  • Utilizes cutting-edge instructional design principles and learning games
  • Efficiently tracks who has and who has not completed the training each year, as handled by Clear Law’s Learning Management System. This prevents employers from having to collect and track certificates manually.

Learn more and view a free course demo now.

About the Author

Michael Johnson, CEO of Clear Law Institute, is a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who brought one of DOJ’s first “pattern or practice” sexual harassment cases. He has provided training and consulting on harassment prevention or investigations to organizations around the world, such as the EEOC, the United Nations, and Google. He is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School.  Read more about Michael here. 

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