NJ Politics Digest: Proposed Harassment Rules Would Keep Complaints Secret

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.
New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Proposed updates to New Jersey’s civil service rules for reporting and investigating alleged instances of sexual harassment would actually discourage victims from coming forward and silence them from telling anyone else about the incidents, one of the state’s top lawmakers has said.

As NJSpotlight reports, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg called the confidentiality provision of the proposed rule “an affront to survivors everywhere.”

The rules proposed by the state Civil Service Commission say that anyone who fails to comply with the confidentiality requirement will face disciplinary action which could include being fired, according to the report. The current policy also punishes victims who broach the confidentiality requirement.

Weinberg said the policy change is unacceptable because it would prevent harassment survivors from discussing what happened with friends or other survivors and would also ban them from warning colleagues about what occurred.

Weinberg was sponsor of a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last month that bans the use of nondisclosure agreements to stop victims from discussing claims of discrimination, sexual assault or harassment, according to the report. Weinberg said the proposed rule changes would negate that law for state employees.

The issue of nondisclosure agreements came to the forefront after a volunteer on Murphy’s campaign claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by a campaign official who later went on to win a high-paying job in Murphy’s administration. That official, Al Alvarez, resigned after campaign volunteer Katie Brennan went to the media with her story. Alvarez was never charged with a crime and says the encounter with Brennan was consensual.

In its report, NJSpotlight notes that a spokesman for the state Civil Service Commission said the proposed rule will be amended to reflect the policy changes Murphy called for on February 5. At that time, the governor said he wanted “survivor-centered” changes in policy.

Quote of the Day: “The time zone is not going to make a difference if there’s no one living here because of taxes,” — Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, on discussion of adopting Daylight Savings Time year-round while there are more pressing problems facing the state.

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