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Position Papers

CCSNJ Opposition to S3352

Labor Mandates

TO: Members of the Senate Labor Committee

FROM: Hilary Chebra, Manager, Government Affairs, CCSNJ

RE: S-3352 (Weinberg)

DATE: June 10, 2021

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ) would like to share our opposition to S-3352 (Weinberg), which concerns unlawful discrimination and harassment.

To be clear, the CCSNJ is staunchly supportive of efforts to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace and S-3352 (Weinberg) commendably aims to eradicate sexual harassment and discrimination at a crucial and long overdue time when the “#MeToo” and “#TimesUp” movements continue to dominate today’s culture and conversation.

However, the CCSNJ has several concerns with S-3352 (Weinberg), which places burdensome mandates on employers and is overly broad in classifying workplace harassment making the bar extremely low for complaints to be levied. Additionally, the legislation goes well beyond recommendations laid out in the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights’ (DCR) report, “Preventing and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in New Jersey,” which was written to specifically address the issue of harassment in the workplace following three public hearings on the topic

Currently, there are already several laws in place to combat workplace harassment. The most problematic change in this bill removes the “severe or pervasive” standard for establishing a hostile work environment. The “severe or pervasive” standard has been established by decades of court precedent in order to prevail in a discrimination or harassment claims. S-3352 (Weinberg) replaces it with the standard that conduct be more than “petty slights or trivial inconveniences” essentially allowing a single incident or disagreement in the workplace to define said workplace as a hostile work environment. In lowering the bar to this level, the legislation is doing a disservice not only to the employer, but also true victims of harassment by raising petty disagreements to this high standard.

Additionally, the reporting requirements in Section 3 of S-3352 (Weinberg) is also of concern. As written, the reporting to the DCR can be weaponized by aggressive employees, including unions trying to organize, couching complaints as discrimination or harassment that are not. Some complaints can be resolved with a simple conversation, but now a determination of “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated” claims will have to be made in every complaint. This will be expensive and disruptive for employers, even with the smallest of complaints, and importantly will allow for the plaintiff’s bar to seek discovery of all files.

Another concern is the expansion of the definition of “employee” to include domestic workers, interns, and independent contractors.  Employers are routinely defending against claims that independent contractors are common law employees, which by law they are not. This definition would also expand coverage to domestic workers, which could potentially expose people to claims regarding matters of which they are accused outside of the workplace, perhaps even in their own homes.

Although well-intended, this bill will not prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  In fact, it may have the opposite effect if enacted by inadvertently categorizing the smallest dispute as a more severe claim, making legit accusations of harassment and discrimination harder to identify.

Thank you for allowing the CCSNJ to express our concerns with S-3352 (Weinberg).

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For any Government-related comments, questions or suggestions please contact:

Hilary Chebra 

Manager, Government Affairs, CCSNJ

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