However, after a series of high-profile sexual harassment cases in 2017 followed by the break out of the #MeToo movement, there was a need to draft new laws or revise existing laws to better protect employees against discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Not just in New Jersey but across the whole country.
California, Illinois, and New York were among the first states to take action and all of them now require mandatory sexual harassment training of employees by their employers.
New Jersey will now follow suit after the state governor, Phil Murphy, proposed amendments to the NJLAD to include new provisions such as mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.
Follow along as we discuss the New Jersey harassment training requirements
as outlined in the new legislation. Better still, we will also go over other harassment prevention methods
proposed in the amendments to help you set up your company in a fully compliant way.
Yes, the laws are yet to be enacted but with the #MeToo movement still going strong and New Jersey’s record of passing labor and employment laws in favor of employees, we anticipate that it’s only a matter of time.
And the good thing is that by implementing the New Jersey anti-harassment training requirements, you are not just ensuring compliance but also creating a conducive working environment for your employees that encourages productivity. Employees can receive a harsh punishment for harassment in New Jersey
and it is best to take all the necessary precautions to protect your business.
New Jersey Sexual Harassment Training Requirements
Once the new amendments have been enacted, employers will be granted a one-year grace period after which training of employees should begin.
An important thing to note before we proceed is that the proposed legislation
will extend the definition of employee to include independent contractors, temporary workers, interns, fellows, apprentices, or trainees regardless of whether these people work in exchange for a salary or wage.
The term employer will also be expanded to include those that employ domestic workers. So, if you have a nanny, caretaker, gardener, or cook at your home, then they will also be protected under the expanded NJLAD.
Sexual Harassment Training Conditions
Here are the workplace training requirements that employers must fulfill to ensure full compliance.
- Train new employees within 90 days of hire and train supervisory employees within 90 days of hire or promotion to a supervisory role. Thereafter, the employer will be required to provide a refresher training course at least once every two years.
- The training should define unlawful workplace harassment as outlined by state laws and warn employees of the consequences for those found culpable. Moreover, the employer is required to use practical examples for clarity. For instance, let’s say, Rose, an employee has a problem with her computer that needs intervention from Kevin the IT guy. In the process of fixing the computer, Kevin brushes his hand against Rose’s breasts. This makes Rose uncomfortable but she lets it slide as an accident. However, it happens again two other times during the process and again the next time Kevin comes to help with another problem on her computer. Rose is certain that Kevin is doing the act on purpose and she starts avoiding him. She even prefers working with a faulty computer if it means avoiding an encounter with Kevin. In this case, Kevin is creating a hostile environment for Rose by harassing her based on her sex.
- Employers must provide special training to supervisory employees about their specific responsibilities in preventing acts of harassment and discrimination. The supervisors and managers should also be taught how to correctly respond and deal with cases of unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Finally, the training should address the potential consequences for them if they fail at their responsibilities.
- Teach employees about the protected categories as defined under New Jersey law.
- The training should include the steps that employees need to follow when reporting a case of harassment either internally or to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) if it’s a case of a rights violation.
- Training also needs to cover retaliation at the workplace. Employees are required to know the meaning of retaliation and that they are consequences for retaliating against those who disclose, report, participate in an investigation, or otherwise challenge harassment or discrimination. Employers are required to use practical examples of conduct that qualify as retaliatory behavior to ensure employees’ full comprehension. Some examples of workplace retaliation include demotion, salary reduction, job reassignment, and firing.
- Training should also include the specific responsibilities of supervisory employees in preventing retaliatory behavior.
- Provide bystander intervention training. This is meant to equip employees who witness harassment in the workplace with the skills to intervene. And if they can’t intervene, they need to know the next proper step to take to stop the act or prevent escalation.
- Employers with 50 or more employees, will be required to provide live in-person training to their employees and also give the employees a chance to ask questions anonymously and get responses from the trainer. You can also use asynchronous learning tools as long as they let the employees anonymously ask questions and receive answers within two business days. Employers with less than 50 employees can choose to use a module prepared by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
- The employer is required to monitor how employees actively participate in the training in ways such as watching videos and answering questions.
- The sexual harassment training should be conducted in multiple languages to cater to employees whose primary language is not English or have a limited ability to understand English.
- Employers will be required to have a record of all employees’ completion of the training program for at least four years. The records can be stores electronically or locally. To prove compliance, the employer will be required to present these records to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights together with employee certifications.
Additional Harassment-prevention methods in the proposed New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
There are some additional sexual harassment training requirements and prevention strategies New Jersey has put into place. Let's review some of them here.
Mandatory anti-harassment and non-discrimination-policy
The expanded NJLAD will require organizations to have a written policy explaining their stance on discrimination in the workplace. Here is what should be included in the anti-harassment policy to ensure compliance.
- A declaration of the company’s zero-tolerance to discrimination of any sort.
- Definition of harassment and discrimination according to New Jersey laws and examples of such conduct.
- A description of the process for filing internal complaints. The full details of the person receiving the complaint should be included.
- A guide on how to reach the Divison of Civil Rights if the victim feels their rights were violated.
- The statute of limitations period is applicable to reporting a case of harassment or discrimination.
- A warning against engaging in retaliatory behavior against anyone who reports, discloses, participates in an investigation, or otherwise challenges harassment or discrimination. This should be reinforced through examples of conduct that is considered retaliatory.
- A description of the potential consequences of violating the policy.
- A statement by the employer describing their commitment to stopping harassment in the workplace by conducting prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations.
NJ Law Require Employers To Distribute Provisions
Once you have the perfect anti-harassment policy there are provisions for how it should be distributed.
- All employees must be given a copy of the written policy as part of the onboarding process. After that, the employer will be required to redistribute the policy to all employees annually.
- If there are any changes to the written policy, employees must be given a copy of the updated policy.
- The policy should also be given to a complainant when they make their complaint and to anyone interviewed during the investigation of a complaint.
A business’s policy should be reviewed at least once a year to ensure that it is in alignment with any new laws and regulations.
Apart from the stated distribution modes, companies with 50 or more companies will also be required to post the policy in a prominent place on their website.
Mandatory reporting of policy violations to the Division of Civil Rights
The proposed amendments will require that organizations with 50 or more employees track and record all harassment, discrimination, and retaliation complaints from employees and present them to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.
The record should include the number of filed complaints, how many of them were substantiated, how many were unsubstantiated, and those pending resolution. The employer will also be required to specify the employee’s protected category.
Expanded statute of limitations for harassment and discrimination claims
The period of filing a claim in court will be extended from 2 years to 3 years. The time for filing a complaint with the DCR will extend from 180 days to one year.
Expansion of the protected class
Most state laws protect employees from harassment and discrimination based on these nine protected classes, sex, religion, color, race, age, disability, creed, national origin, and genetic information. The proposed legislation will expand the protected class in New Jersey to include the following other individuals.
- People with a perceived disability. This will protect individuals that don’t have a particular disability but whose harasser perceives them to have the disability.
- People that associate with members of a protected class or those perceived to belong to a protected class
- Individuals in transition from one protected class to another
- Individuals that are in transition from one state in a protected class to another state within that protected class or a different protected class
Reduced burden on the complainant when filing for unlawful harassment and discrimination in court
The new bill adds several provisions that will make it easier for victims to demonstrate liability for discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.
For instance, the victim does not need to prove that harassment was severe and pervasive as required in the original bill. Instead, it is the responsibility of the employer to prove that the harassment conduct
is not more than what a reasonable victim of the same protected class would consider a trivial inconvenience.
Moreover, if an employee fails to use the set procedure for filing a complaint in the company, this cannot be used as a defense by the employer to escape liability.
Other provisions of this nature include:
- The employee will not be required to identify or demonstrate comparators outside the protected class.
- There does not need to be a loss of tangible job benefit or diminished productivity for an employee to prove a certain action on them qualifies as harassment.
- Employers cannot use temporal proximity as their defense against retaliation claims as long as the retaliation is directly connected with the harassment conduct. If an employer sacks an employee after they filed a case of harassment against them, the employer cannot argue that these actions just happened to follow each other closely and that one is not a direct consequence of each other.
- If the court determines that an employer created a job environment that a reasonable person in the same protected class would consider intolerable, the court will conclude that constructive dismissal occurred.
Other notable changes in the proposed bill
- Prior complaints of harassment and discrimination conduct at the same company will be considered relevant in ongoing harassment cases regardless of whether the employee complaining of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation was aware or witnessed these prior complaints.
- There have also been changes to the legal principles applicable to complaints filed with the DCR. A victim can now file complaints with the DCR within one year of a violation, or their knowledge of a violation. The victim may also choose to either file their complaint with the DCR or any municipal office within New Jersey. Additionally, a victim can escalate their suit to the supreme court even after filing a complaint with the DCR.
How EasyLlama's Sexual Harassment Training Can Help
Keeping up with all the laws affecting your business is necessary but it’s not what you would rather be doing. That time spent trying to come up with a program to meet the sexual harassment training requirements and comply with all the New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination is tough. Wouldn't your time be better invested in creating better services and products for your clients? Don’t you agree?
You can then enlist the services of experts like us to help with compliance and harassment training. EasyLlama
online sexual harassment training consists of interactive bite-sized episodes that can be watched on any device from anywhere and on your schedule. Moreover, our software makes it easy to track and report on your employees’ training progress as well as certifying those that have completed the program exactly as required under the expanded NJLAD.
Our New Jersey sexual harassment training course is the combined efforts of HR experts and legal experts which guarantees a comprehensive training program created with all current laws in mind.
And if you have employees that don’t speak or understand English, our training program has been translated to Spanish and 100 other languages.
Avoid unnecessary fines and stay compliant with our online sexual harassment training. Get in touch for a free trial today.