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New Jersey’s Civil Service Commission Re-Drafts Rule that Potentially Forced Survivors of Harassment into Mandatory Silence

Non-disclosure obligations in cases involving sexual harassment have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months and years, and deservedly so. Some non-disclosure rules can potentially aid survivors by shielding their privacy. However, if written too broadly, these rules run the risk of harming, not helping, survivors of harassment. For example, under the current rules, if you’re a New Jersey state employee, you risk losing your job if you discuss a sexual harassment complaint – even if you were the victim. The state recently announced that it had re-drafted the rule in the hopes of avoiding creating a “chilling effect” on victims’ reporting their harassment, reported.

Whether you are a government employee or work in the private sector, if you’ve been sexually harassed at work, you may have various options to receive the compensation you deserve for the harm you suffered. Contact an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to find out more.

As an example of how the state employee rule, prior to its re-drafting, could hurt victims of sexual harassment consider the case of V.U., as reported by V.U. was a woman who worked as a procurement specialist for the state’s Department of Treasury for two years, from 2014-16. According to the specialist, her supervisor subjected her to “pervasive sexual harassment,” including stalking, unwelcome physical contact and sexual propositions.

V.U. filed a complaint detailing the sexual harassment. As part of the process, the worker alleged that she was required to sign a confidentiality form and, after doing so, was instructed that she could lose her job if she said anything to anyone about the investigation into the harassment she allegedly suffered.

One state senator who advocated for the re-draft stated that the changes were beneficial and very important. She stated that the changes to the rule were essential in order to “strike a balance between protecting the privacy of survivors who report assault or harassment without having a chilling effect on those who come forward and on potential witnesses. This rule change gets it right and shows that lessons are being learned from the bad practices of the past,” according to the report.

In many situations, the senator is correct. The key is to protect both the rights and the privacy of workplace sexual harassment survivors. Some confidentiality provisions are necessary in order to make sure that survivors can come forward and report without fear harm in the form of unwanted and harmful exposure.

Confidentiality rules, however, should not go so far that they themselves become the tool used against the survivor who has come forward and reported. A survivor should not have to choose between stepping reporting and then remaining in silence or else not reporting at all.

If you are a survivor of harassment on the job, there are likely many rules and laws with which you’ll have to deal if you are filing a civil service harassment complaint or pursuing a civil lawsuit for workplace harassment. To make sure that you are getting the helpful and clear advice you need, contact the experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Reach out to us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how our knowledgeable attorneys can help you to navigate the legal process.

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