February 19, 2020
Students Rachael Newcomb RLAW '21, left, and Morgan McGourghran RLAW ‘20, center, were two of the students who worked on a statewide study of sexual harassment with their Professor, Penny Venetis, right.

The Rutgers Law School International Human Rights Clinic, directed by Professor Penny Venetis, was instrumental in drafting a statewide report that addresses sexual harassment in New Jersey workplaces, and that proposes legislation and other policies to combat sexual harassment.

The report was made public by Governor Phil Murphy on February 18th.

The findings of the report, conducted by the N.J. Division on Civil Rights, led Gov. Murphy to announced legislation to strengthen the state’s anti-workplace harassment laws. The bill establishes clear language to define a hostile work environment, mandates that all employers provide their employees training on unlawful discrimination and harassment, and extends the statute of limitations for cases brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The announcement follows the Governor’s commitment at his State of the State Address in January to bring sweeping changes to New Jersey’s workplace culture.

"The International Human Rights Clinic is proud to have been part of this innovative and important project," said its Director, Professor Penny Venetis. "The work we've done so far is critical to understanding the pervasiveness, and the many insidious forms of sexual harassment in New Jersey. The testimony provided by victims, their advocates, members of the academic and legal communities, as well as progressive members of the business community, will help us enact strong laws and policies to address and eliminate sexual harassment throughout the state. “

Law students attended the three public hearings held by the NJ Division on Civil Rights (DCR) and the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault and listened to testimony from survivors, advocates, and experts. They heard about sexual harassment in the workplace, in housing, and at public places. Written testimony also was submitted to the Division. Based on the hearings and written testimony, the students conducted research on recurring themes and made recommendations to the state.

Several of the recommendations made by the clinic were incorporated into the final report and the Rutgers clinic students and professor were credited as co-authors.

“It's a great feeling to see all the hard work put in come to fruition and be so well supported by Governor Murphy,” said Kaylin Olsen RLAW ‘20. “After the first public hearing on sexual harassment, we immediately saw issues we found most important for New Jersey to address, such as extending the statute of limitations and covering all workers in anti-harassment legislation, especially domestic workers.”

“Hopefully, each and every person or group who participated in the public forums will feel that their voices were heard and their concerns were represented within the findings and recommendations of this report,” said Morgan McGourghran RLAW ‘20 “It was truly a privilege to get to work side-by-side with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights on such a critical issue. I am confident that this report will encourage meaningful discussions about how New Jersey can improve protections to ensure that everyone is protected against discrimination and harassment in the workplace, in housing, and in places of public accommodation.”

“Working with the Division on Civil Rights on this important project was a unique and exciting opportunity for the students working on this report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law,” said Rachael Newcomb RLAW’21. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in housing, places of public accommodation and in the workplace. Being able to work

directly on a report which sought to eradicate that risk from women’s day to day lives was exceptionally fulfilling. I encourage everyone to read this report and to become allies in the fight against sexual harassment in New Jersey.”

Venetis said she looks forward to our continued partnership with the Division on Civil Rights of the Attorney General's office, and others who worked on the project, “as we seek to make New Jersey a world leader in combating sexual harassment and abuse. "

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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