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Joint Resolution to Adopt Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policy for the Legislature Approved By Both Houses
Resolution Sponsored by Speaker Coughlin, Senator Weinberg, Senate President Sweeney, Assemblywoman Lampitt, Senator Kean and Minority Leader Bramnick
TRENTON - Strengthening protections for legislative employees, a concurrent resolution sponsored by the Legislature to adopt a more extensive policy preventing and responding to acts of discrimination and harassment in the Legislature was unanimously approved by both houses Thursday.
An increased focus nationally on sexual harassment in the workplace as evidenced by the #MeToo social media movement has prompted many states to reevaluate harassment and training policy. In 2018 alone, 32 states have introduced over 125 pieces of legislation.
"After reviewing the previous policy, we knew immediately that more had to be done to encourage a welcoming workplace for all those who work for and with the legislature," said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "Mandated training and a more inclusive protected class list makes this a more rigorous policy than we've had in the past. This policy is as important now as it was in 2009 when the current policy was put in place, but today's policy is stronger."
"I appreciate working directly with Speaker Coughlin to develop a new and appropriate anti-harassment policy for both houses of the Legislature and the staffs so that we have the best standards in place to protect the rights and respect the dignity of everyone in the workplace of the Senate and the Assembly. We devoted time and effort on this with the expectation that we will have a clear definition of the standards and the process for guaranteeing a safe and supportive employment environment for everyone. We now look forward to adopting the same policy for the office of legislative services," said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).
"As the lawmaking body in New Jersey it is vital that we live up to the standards of conduct and behavior that reflect our values as Americans. The Legislature is the epicenter of public policy but it is also the workplace for those engaged in the lawmaking process. We won't tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination or prejudice towards anyone based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or other distinctive characteristics that define groups of Americans. We must live by the principles of respect and inclusion that embraces our diversity as one of our greatest strengths," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem).
The bipartisan-sponsored Concurrent Resolution (SCR-140/ACR-10) underscores the commitment to providing its members, employees and third parties with a work environment free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.
The preceding policy was adopted on February 9, 2009.
"The #Metoo movement has inspired many employers to reassess their harassment and discrimination policies," said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). "For all of the employees throughout the country who have stood up against harassment and discrimination, this policy reaffirms the Legislatures commitment and recognizes the importance of this issue, and we stand with our employees against these acts."
"As a body that often dictates standards to others, it's important that the New Jersey Legislature demonstrates clearly that we understand the importance of preventing harassment and discrimination in every workplace, including our own," said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Union). "Every legislator, every staffer, and all of the thousands of citizens who take part in the legislative process deserve to know that they are protected by a modern policy that demands the highest standards of personal conduct at all times."
"The reality is that harassment and discrimination can happen in the workplace," said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union). "To discourage this type of behavior, we need to set a standard for workplace interactions. With the adoption of the policy, we reaffirm zero tolerance against harassment and discrimination in the Legislature."
The resolution codifies that discrimination/harassment undermine the integrity of the employment relationship compromise equal employment opportunity, debilitate morale and interfere with work productivity. The policy would apply to all members and employees of the Legislature and third parties, including partisan staff members, district office staff and the Assembly and Senate office of the clerk staff members. Third parties may include lobbyists, newspersons, and member of the general public who conduct business at the state capitol or with the General Assembly.
The new, more comprehensive policy acknowledges the social and cultural diversity of today's workplace environment. The policy lists specific protect categories of which discrimination and harassment of are prohibited and will not be tolerated.
The joint resolution will now be filed with the New Jersey Secretary of State.
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