The "#metoo" movement has sparked national attention over the issue of sexual harassment. For lawmakers in New Jersey, it seems like the wave of media attention is just the incentive needed to start some long-needed changes.
An analysis of the nation's sexual harassment policies for each state's lawmakers found New Jersey to be sadly deficient. It is one of the nation's weakest.
Only 17 states, including New Jersey, lack mandated sexual harassment training for the members of the legislature and their staff. Other issues, like ethics, are clearly seen as more important, because they have mandated training sessions.
New Jersey's current anti-sexual harassment policy hasn't been revised in almost a decade. The last revision was in 2009.
Even worse, New Jersey allows for internal investigations, which may permit incidents of sexual harassment to slip under the public radar. It also makes an investigation questionable, since no internal investigation is entirely independent.
A request for any public records of complaints leveled against members of the legislature since 2008 showed no results.
The process of filing a complaint in the legislature seems almost hopelessly convoluted. Any victim wanting to make a complaint has to file it with Human Resources.
That department then investigates, with or without outside help, at its sole discretion. The results of the investigation go into a report for the president of the Senate, the speaker of the Assembly and the Legislative Services director.
Once the report has been made, the specified legislators vote whether or not to accept its determination and issue a letter to both the victim and the alleged harasser.
With such a convoluted process and lack of external oversight, it's probably little wonder that there's been no complaints.
Just the same, one member of the Senate, Majority Leader Weinberg, plans to ask for the sexual harassment policy to be reviewed. Currently, New Jersey is one of only a handful of states that haven't started a review of their policies since the "#metoo" movement began.
A review of its sexual harassment policies by the state's government would signal from the top down that there's no place sexual harassment is acceptable. It would also encourage victims to seek help against their harassers.
Source: NJ.com, "N.J. sexual harassment policies for lawmakers among worst in nation," Susan K Livio and Carla Astudillo, Jan. 17, 2018