This article was updated with comment from Anthony Anastasio at 10:24 a.m. Friday.
The Senate Labor Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would expand existing harassment protections to interns, independent contractors and domestic workers.
“These are some of the most vulnerable workers in society who have been powerless to defend themselves,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who sponsored the measure. “They need to know they have the law on their side and that they won’t be left defenseless against abuse or harassment.”
The bill would require employers to draft written harassment and discrimination policies that include provisions for remedying breaches. Employers would be responsible to promulgating the policies, which must be reviewed every year, annually to each employee.
It also removes discrimination protections carveouts for individuals over the age of 70. Existing state law allows employers to refuse to hire or promote people over the age of 70 and bar forced retirements, except for judges, police and fire officials.
Businesses with 50 or more workers would be required to provide in-person anti-discrimination and anti-harassment trainings, a requirement extended to supervisory employees at all employers.
“An increasing number of people are staying in the workforce until later in life, and they continue to make productive contributions,” Weinberg said. “Against this backdrop, three in five older workers report seeing or experiencing age discrimination in the workplace, with women and Black workers reporting high rates of discrimination. We need to put an end to these unfair practices.”
There’s been some talk about raising the mandatory retirement age for judges above 70 as the state deals with shortages in the judiciary, though the measure
The bill was met with less-than-universal acclaim. Anthony Anastasio, president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, which advocates for legal protections for businesses, said the measure would diminish the power of the courts and urged the legislature instead advance a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) that would create stricter standards for harassment cases than the Weinberg bill.
“The bill explicitly rejects clear recommendations from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights set forth in its February 2020 report and proposed legislation to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, housing and education,” Anastasio said. “The radical approach offered by S3352 will hurt both employers and victims who desire predictability in the law, instead generating chaos that only benefits the lawyers pursuing these cases.”