A much-heralded tougher sexual harassment policy unveiled by the New Jersey Legislature last month is very similar to the New Jersey State Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace that was adopted in 1999 and updated in 2005 and 2007. Much of the language is identical.
The state policy applied only to employees of state departments, commissions, colleges and universities, agencies and authorities.
The Legislature adopted their policy to apply to legislators and their staff, officers of the legislature, and employees of the Office of Legislative Services. Additionally, the Legislature extended their policy to include interns, lobbyists, members of the media, and even members of the public “who have business at the state capitol or who are doing business with the New Jersey Legislature.”
The state policy specifically bans “generalized gender-based remarks or comments,” but that particular example of prohibited behavior was left off the legislative policy. But the Legislature’s policy includes a reference to “off-duty conduct” at “business or non-business social events,” which could be interpreted to mean political events and campaigns.
Violations of the state policy should be reported to a supervisor or directly to the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action officer.
In the Legislature, the Senate President and Assembly Speaker are designated as intake officers, as well as the executive directors of the four partisan staffs, the HR director and executive director at OLS, the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the Assembly. That means, at least in theory, if someone reports an incident of sexual harassment to one of the legislative leaders, he is obligated to report it.
It’s not entirely clear what the penalty is for a lobbyist, reporter or member of the public who violates the harassment policy.