Downey Bill Requiring Legislative Policy on Sexual Harassment Now Law

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - In order to ensure a safe and secure work environment for members and employees, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Joann Downey to require the Legislature to adopt a policy prohibiting sexual harassment and provide training on the policy for members, officers and employees was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Phil Murphy.

“It is important that we have something in place so that if this occurs, people will know that there is a system in place to protect them,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Many people who experience this are often too afraid to speak up out of fear of retaliation. This policy makes it clear that allegations of sexual harassment will be investigated, and if proven, will be handled accordingly.”

The law (formerly A-3312) requires the Legislature to adopt – as a separate policy adopted independently by each House and the Office of Legislative Services, or as one policy adopted by all three – and maintain a policy that: prohibits sexual harassment by members, officers, and employees of the Legislature; requires compliance with the policy; requires that appropriate measures be taken to ensure that the prohibited conduct does not occur; and provides the procedures for the reporting, investigation, final determination, remediation, and discipline of prohibited conduct. The policy must include provisions regarding confidentiality, retaliation, and false accusations.

The policy must be adopted in a manner deemed appropriate by the presiding officer of each House, the executive director of the Office of Legislative Services (OLS), or all three, as appropriate.

The policy or policies apply to all members of the Legislature, and all officers and employees, including supervisors and managers, of the legislative partisan staff offices, district offices, Office of Legislative Services, Office of Clerk of the General Assembly, and Office of the Secretary of the Senate. The policy adopted by the Office of Legislative Services, whether separately or jointly, applies to any agency, board, bureau, or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch.

The policy will be reviewed at least once every two years.

Under the law, the director of human resources of the Office of Legislative Services will to prepare and maintain an online training program on any policy adopted. Members, officers, and employees to whom the policy applies will be required to complete either the online training program or another approved training program, as determined by the presiding officer of each House and by the director of the Office of Legislative Services, as appropriate, at least once every two years. Each person who completes the training will have to submit a certification of completion, which will be public information. The Office of Legislative Services will publish any adopted policy on the Legislature’s website, along with the contact information for its human resources office.

The law was previously approved in September of 2018 by the Assembly, 79-0, and passed the Senate earlier this month, 40-0. It is also co-sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune).

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