(TRENTON) – In order to ensure a safe and secure work environment for members and employees, the General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation by Assemblywomen Carol Murphy, Joann Downey and Shavonda Sumter to require the Legislature to adopt a policy prohibiting sexual harassment, and provide training on the policy for members, officers and employees.
“We want to make sure that all who serve and work in the Legislature understand that sexual harassment is not and will not be tolerated,” said Murphy (D-Burlington) “This policy will help ensure that people recognize sexual harassment when they see it, and will know how and who to report it to. People need to know this type of behavior is not okay in the workplace, or any place, period.”
“It is important that we have something in place so that if this occurs, people will know that there is a system in place to protect them,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Many people who experience this are often too afraid to speak up out of fear of retaliation. This policy makes it clear that allegations of sexual harassment will be investigated, and if proven, will be handled accordingly.”
“The Time’s Up movement has shed a light on sexual harassment and how rampant it is. We want to dissuade the fear that keeps victims from speaking up,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By adopting this policy in the Legislature, we are firmly stating that this type of predatory behavior is not acceptable and that there will be consequences for those who engage in it.”
The bill (A-3312) would require the Legislature to adopt – as a separate policy adopted independently by each House and the Office of Legislative Services, or as one policy adopted by all three – and maintain a policy that: prohibits sexual harassment by members, officers, and employees of the Legislature; requires compliance with the policy; requires that appropriate measures be taken to ensure that the prohibited conduct does not occur; and provides the procedures for the reporting, investigation, final determination, remediation, and discipline of prohibited conduct. The policy must include provisions regarding confidentiality, retaliation, and false accusations.
The policy must be adopted in a manner deemed appropriate by the presiding officer of each House, the executive director of the Office of Legislative Services (OLS), or all three, as appropriate.
The policy or policies would apply to all members of the Legislature, and all officers and employees, including supervisors and managers, of the legislative partisan staff offices, district offices, Office of Legislative Services, Office of Clerk of the General Assembly, and Office of the Secretary of the Senate. The policy adopted by the Office of Legislative Services, whether separately or jointly, would apply to any agency, board, bureau, or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch.
The policy would have to be reviewed at least once every two years.
Under the bill, the director of human resources of the Office of Legislative Services would have to prepare and maintain an online training program on any policy adopted. Members, officers, and employees to whom the policy applies would be required to complete either the online training program or another approved training program, as determined by the presiding officer of each House and by the director of the Office of Legislative Services, as appropriate, at least once every two years. Each person who completes the training would have to submit a certification of completion, which would be public information. The Office of Legislative Services would have to publish any adopted policy on the Legislature’s website, along with the contact information for its human resources office.
The bill was approved 79-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.