Murphy pledges workplace reforms amid allegations of harassment in N.J. politics

Posted Feb 13, 2020

As the focus tightens on allegations of harassment against women in New Jersey politics — including in his own campaign — Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday the state government will re-evaluate its current workplace standards and training.

The goal, the Democratic governor said, is to make sure all state employees are treated equally, regardless of sex, race, or gender identity.

“I have said time and time again that my goal is to make New Jersey stronger and fairer for everyone," Murphy said in a statement. “Make no mistake: I believe that a more respectful culture for women in our state is a moral imperative.”

The governor’s office said it is searching for “an expert partner” in labor to assess workplace training programs and "make recommendations on how to move forward.” That includes evaluating the current steps taken in state government to report and prevent sexual harassment or workplace issues.

Murphy said he will invest time and resources to do in-person and interactive training and allow more people in government to become trainers.

“While we have made progress, I recognize that our state has a long way to go,” Murphy said.

Patricia Teffenhart, executive director for the Coalition Against Sexual Assault of New Jersey, praised the governor’s announcement.

“These are really good next steps,” she said.

Teffenhart said she appreciated Murphy’s willingness to rethink training strategies, such as the online courses offered by many large employers that are regarded as outdated and ineffective.

“Online trainings are not effective ways to convey sensitive information. and is what many big entities do,” she said.

“The movement around safety and equity in the workplace has reached a heightened status in this administration," Teffenhart added.

There has been a renewed focus in recent months on how women are treated in New Jersey politics after a Dec. 29 report from NJ Advance Media in which numerous women working in the field detailed how they had been harassed or sexually assaulted.

In his State of the State address last month, Murphy called on lawmakers and other leaders to "work together to tear down the existing system and replace it with one that treats everyone with equal dignity and respect.”

Still, Murphy’s 2017 campaign has been dogged by allegations of toxicity, especially for women. A former adviser, Julie Roginsky, publicly said the campaign was “the most toxic workplace environment I have ever seen in 25 years of working on political campaigns.” Other women on the campaign have made similar accusations, some anonymously.

Murphy on Tuesday apologized “to those we failed” on the campaign.

But Roginsky said Murphy didn’t go far enough because a number of campaign officials who have been the subject of complaints still either work for the governor’s administration or still advise him.

Meanwhile, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, formed a panel to examine how women are treated in New Jersey politics.

At the group’s first meeting Tuesday, a female union official accused state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, of making a threatening comment during a heated exchange a decade ago. Sweeney apologized and promised to help eliminate “the misogynistic culture that continues to infect politics in New Jersey.”

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