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Part I: more changes proposed to New Jersey employment law

There’s no doubt that 2019 brought a lot of changes to state law. But get ready: there might be even more changes coming to New Jersey employment law in 2020. Governor Phil Murphy has proposed a sweeping set of changes to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) that he says would “clarify legal grey areas.”

The half-dozen proposed changes revolve around allegations of workplace misconduct, including harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Murphy’s proposal includes the following:

  • Codifying harassment that constitutes a hostile work environment
  • Requiring anti-discrimination, -harassment and retaliation employee training and policies
  • Requiring employers to keep detailed complaint records
  • Requiring employers to report complaints to the Division on Civil Rights
  • Including domestic workers and interns under the NJLAD
  • Expanding the statute of limitations to three years for most NJLAD claims

The National Law Review urges employers to keep an eye on the proposal. If enacted, it will increase costs of training and compliance and could “create unintended liability.”

The publication argues that the governor’s measure “would significantly reduce the already light burden carried by NJLAD plaintiffs,” making it easier for workers to file complaints based on overreactions, gossip and “trivial slights or inconveniences.” While courts typically disregard claims based on such “evidence” of wrongdoing, the bill would require judges to consider them.

Among the changes, the measure drop the requirement that an employee would have to show a “loss of tangible job benefits” or a “loss of productivity.” Courts would be required to consider a complainant’s subjective reaction to the alleged misconduct and consider secondhand knowledge of similar behavior, whether or not the employee witnessed the behavior.

We’ll have more on Murphy’s proposal in an upcoming post. Morristown business owners and managers should contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss compliance with recent changes to New Jersey law and to prepare for anticipated changes.

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