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Governor Proposes Significant Overhaul for New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to Aid Workers Harmed by Harassment and Discrimination

Governor Phil Murphy recently proposed what would amount to a massive reform of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD.) The overhaul, if enacted in its entirety, would make it easier for New Jersey workers who are the victims of discrimination or harassment to file and pursue their cases successfully. The governor’s proposal is an important reminder that the laws in New Jersey are often changing and, sometimes, those changes are major… and massively beneficial to you. Be sure to consult a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney about your situation to get the up-to-date advice you need.

The proposed revamp of the LAD comes in the aftermath of a one-year-long study of discrimination and harassment at New Jersey workplaces, which was conducted by the Division on Civil Rights (DCR.) The director of the DCR, after completing the survey, stated that sexual harassment remained “pervasive. Even as women make up nearly half of the work force, sexual harassment persists in every sector of the workforce.”

Toward ending that pervasiveness, the reform proposed by the governor would extend the statute of limitations for filing a LAD claim from two years to three years. The proposal would also give harmed workers an extra six months to file an administrative complaint with the DCR, which is a mandatory first step before you can sue in court.

These changes are helpful to any worker harmed by discrimination or harassment, as they give those workers and their legal teams more time to develop the evidence they need for success… or to pursue a potential settlement if that is a possible goal. The extended filing deadlines are particularly valuable for survivors of sexual harassment as, in addition to the above benefits, it allows them extra time for coming forward. That can be massively important for a sexual harassment survivor, who may be struggling with the emotional or psychological effects of the harassment or may fear personal and professional reprisals if they come forward.

Defining what is a ‘hostile work environment’ in New Jersey

The reform would also spell out a statutory definition of a hostile work environment. The proposal’s definition would state that proof of “conduct that occurred because of sex or any other characteristic protected under [the LAD], which a reasonable person in the complainant’s protected class would find to be sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment and create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment,” would amount to proof of a hostile work environment.

The overhaul would also help survivors of harassment caught in the often-difficult circumstance where the harassment occurs at work, but the harasser does not work for your employer. This proposed law says that a harasser’s non-employee status doesn’t matter. The reform proposal would put into the LAD a provision that says that your employer can be liable, and owe you compensation, for illegal harassment if a person engaged in harassment and your employer knew about it (or should have known about it) but still failed to take the appropriate corrective action. That would be true whether the harasser is a fellow employee, a contractor, a vendor or a client.

The proposal would also extend coverage to more workers. The overhaul would state that any worker or intern, whether paid or unpaid, would qualify as a covered employee.

It remains to be seen whether the governor’s proposal will pass in its entirety, or if only a portion will become law. If you’ve been harmed at work due to discrimination or sexual harassment, you need a legal team that is up to date on the law and knows how to take that law and get you to a successful result. Reach out to knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates for the informed advice and thoughtful solutions your situation needs. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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