Mandatory Anti-Harassment Training Proposed for Employers in New Jersey

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New Jersey may soon require mandatory anti-sex harassment training at every workplace in the state, regardless of number of employees.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has issued Findings and Recommendations on Preventing and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in New Jersey. And one of its biggest recommendations is to require employers in New Jersey to raise awareness of harassment in the workplace and to adopt polices and procedures allowing employees to bring incidents to the attention of management without retaliation.

Simultaneously, Governor Phil Murphy has proposed legislation aimed at strengthening New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the law which makes discrimination and harassment unlawful in the workplace, and adopting the DCR’s recommendations and expanding them to cover all forms of discriminatory harassment.

In addition, larger employers - those with 50 or more employees, determined by the number of employees working both in and outside of New Jersey - would be required to file annual reports with the DCR of all internal complaints of harassment, discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. The employee’s protected category would also be identified in this report.

An employer, regardless of size, would have one year from the date of enactment of the amendments to implement a written anti-discrimination and harassment policy that met various standards, including a commitment by the employer to conduct “prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations,” as well as a no-retaliation statement.

And the proposed law would require mandatory interactive training on discrimination and harassment, as well as on the employer’s required policy.

Training requirements would extend to new employees (to be held within their first 90 days of hire) and then every two years after. The training components would cover the required components of the written policy plus bystander intervention - the requirement that any employees aware of harassment or discrimination must report it.

The training would be provided to all new employees within 90 days of initial hire, and to all employees at least once every two years.

Every employer in New Jersey, regardless of size, would be required to train supervisors as well as all employees but could use an approved training module developed by DCR.

According to John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ), most larger employers have a policy and about one in four offer interactive training regularly.

While training is not mandatory, courts have held that training can reduce employer liability, thus providing an incentive to provide training.

In the proposed legislation, the DCR will develop an online training module that can be used by employers with fewer than 50 employees if they choose.

Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide the trainings live, in-person setting where participants can ask questions.

EANJ has offered live, interactive training to its employer-members since 1995 and Sarno and the EANJ staff have trained at over one thousand employers since then. EANJ was also involved in establishing the case law reducing employer liability when policies, procedures and training have been provided at the worksite.

The Association also contributed a brief to the DCR that was incorporated, in part, into its Final Report.

“We have been in the forefront of helping employers understanding their obligations under the state’s discrimination and harassment law. We have made a positive difference and look forward to continuing our work” says Sarno.