TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s Democrat-led Legislature says it’s planning to review its nearly decade-old sexual misconduct policy, which now makes lawmakers aware of it but does not offer any training.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin say they are looking to update the policy, which dates to 2009.
Weinberg, who said she wants to make training mandatory, said she is pushing for the updates in light of the many accounts of sexual misconduct nationwide that began with the revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
A 50-state review by The Associated Press found that almost all legislative chambers now have at least some type of written sexual harassment policy, though they vary widely. Many are placing a greater emphasis on preventing and punishing sexual misconduct as they convene for their 2018 sessions.
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Yet about a third of all legislative chambers do not require lawmakers to receive training about what constitutes sexual harassment, how to report it and what consequences it carries, the AP’s review found.
Weinberg said she is not aware of any instances of legislative misconduct, and AP records requests with officials in both chambers and parties turned up no documents showing any settlements. An AP request to the state Treasury also did not reveal any state money being paid to settle misconduct cases.
“It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means I don’t know about it,” Weinberg added.
Coughlin, the new Assembly speaker, said he already is looking into the policy and discussing it with staff.
“I plan to update and implement a more expansive and modernized policy to ensure we’re doing everything we can to prevent harassment, improve training and protect victims,” he said.
The current four-and-half page policy says that all workers are entitled to a work environment free from discrimination. The policy encourages those with complaints to seek out their human resources director and lays out the process under which an investigation would unfold.
The policy calls for maintaining the confidentiality of those involved and exempts documents related to the process from the state’s open records law.
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