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New legislation could crack down on hostile work environments

There is never a time when it's acceptable to struggle with harassment at work. You shouldn't be discriminated against for your race, gender or other differences, and you deserve to work in an environment where you are accepted and appreciated for the work you do.

All employers in New Jersey should have sexual harassment and discrimination policies, which is a topic that is part of several reforms Governor Phil Murphy has proposed in the state. He believes that having these policies, as well as providing training to prevent discrimination and harassment, would create safer work environments for anyone working in the state.

The proposal came after there was attention placed on how his campaign, as well as other organizations, handle complaints of harassment or other issues. Now, if passed, the bills would require public reports that would allow policymakers to see how common harassment really is and take steps to address it.

How would the proposed legislation help?

The legislation would first start by defining what a hostile work environment is much more clearly. That would include stating that it would only take a single incident of harassment, which doesn't have to be physical, to create that hostile environment. The proposed legislation would also give victims up to three years to file a lawsuit and up to a year to file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The legislation defines that the protections would be extended to unpaid workers and domestic workers as well, helping anyone who faces harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Why don't people always report incidents of harassment?

It is often because of the differences in power. For domestic workers, like in-home nannies, reporting an employer could lead to a fear of retaliation. For a new employee, reporting the boss of an enterprise might feel like such a discrepancy that they wouldn't be believed.

The reality is that harassment, assault and other issues happen often in workplaces across the United States. New Jersey is looking into how it can address those issues and encourage more education and support for employees, employers and others.

What do you do if you're a victim of sexual harassment or other workplace violations?

If you can, you should report the incident to your Human Resources department and make sure that the complaint is handled. In some cases, a coworker, for example, could be fired over the violation. If your complaint is not handled seriously, then it may be time to speak with your attorney.

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