Armato, Vainieri Huttle and Murphy Introduce Bill Classifying Sexual Harassment as Workplace Discrimination

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Carol Murphy expanding the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to include sexual harassment as a form of workplace discrimination was recently introduced in the General Assembly.

“If an employer or potential employer coerces an employee or potential employee to submit to verbal or physical sexual acts, and penalizes them upon refusal, that is, by definition, discrimination,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “Many of the most vulnerable members of the workforce, especially young women, find themselves in uncomfortable power arrangements at work, where they may feel like their job may be threatened if they don’t submit to the will of their employer. This is not right, and I intend to end this with this bill.”

The bill (A-3948) defines “sexual harassment” as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

• Submission to that conduct or communication is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of obtaining or maintaining employment, contracts, agreements or other things or relationships of value;
• Submission, or refusal to submit, to that conduct or communication by that conduct or communication by that individual is used as a factor in decisions regarding employment, contracts, agreements or other things or relationships of value; or
• That conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment or business relationship, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment or business environment.

“It’s about time we give women in the workplace the respect they deserve,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “There are so many tragic stories of women being forced or pressured to engage in sexual behavior that is totally unwanted by them. This ends now.”

Under the bill, employees, potential employees, independent contractors, clients, interns, volunteers and customers would be protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

“Legislation like this is a long time coming,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “With the advancement and achievements of the #MeToo and #Time’sUp Movements, there is greater recognition for the extent and severity of this problem. Now, with this bill, people in the workplace can hopefully feel the physical protection and financial security that they deserve.”
If passed, New Jersey would become the 4th state to extend these protections to independent contractors.