Governor Phil Murphy wants an “overhaul” of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

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And I want to try “The Perfect Bite” that Binging With Babish cooked up last week on his YouTube channel. Here is what his duck carbonara looked like.

But, Governor Murphy’s proposed changes to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) aren’t nearly as aspirational.

And if you operate a business in NJ, I’ll show you how HR compliance may change…drastically.

One of us will get what we want. Guess which one.

Yesterday, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights announced (here) its findings and recommendations from three public hearings on preventing and eliminating sexual harassment in New Jersey. Also yesterday, Governor Murphy announced this legislative proposal to overhaul the LAD.

And you know what? I don’t think that it was coincidental. 😉

In a nutshell, here’s how the LAD may change according to the Governor’s announcement:

  • Stronger Language to Define a Hostile Work Environment: The bill clarifies the “severe or pervasive” standard for establishing a hostile work environment and makes it clear that a single incident can create a hostile work environment and that harassment need not involve physical touching;
  • Accountability for Employers: To ensure uniform compliance, the bill mandates that all private and public employers establish workplace policies and training on unlawful discrimination and harassment, and mandates that DCR create model policies and training to facilitate compliance. Employers with 50 or more employees would also be required to collect and annually report data related to complaints received on workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation to the Division on Civil Rights;
  • Expanded Employee Protections: The bill adds domestic workers and unpaid interns to the employees protected by the Law Against Discrimination (LAD). It also provides an extension to the statute of limitations for cases brought under the LAD from two to three years and the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with DCR from 180 days to one year.

Let’s break this down.

The first bullet merely codifies case law in New Jersey. No news there.

The third bullet point could salvage a few otherwise untimely claims. However, I suspect that the statute of limitations impacts a small percentage of viable claims under the LAD. In other words, many who miss the two-year deadline to file a lawsuit in state court have decided to forego the claim altogether and, therefore, wouldn’t ‘do a 180’ and decide to file between years two and three.

(The extended deadline to file with DCR could result in more complaints filed with DCR. However, it hardly moves the needle because NJ does not require individuals to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a LAD lawsuit).

Now, that second bullet point. That one has real teeth! 😬

We’re talking not only about employee handbook revisions and mandatory training — ka-ching! (did I say that out loud?) — but also larger employers (50+ employees in or out of state) must report to DCR on a DCR form the type, number, and ultimate resolution of internal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation complaints received.

The DCR report also includes some best practices, such as:

  • adopting clear and comprehensive written policies addressing sexual harassment that are reinforced with effective training;
  • encouraging reporting by clearly articulating reporting procedures that include multiple avenues;
  • conducting prompt, thorough and impartial investigations; and
  • monitoring compliance with their policies through anonymous employee surveys.

 

 

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”