Amid allegations within his campaign, Gov. Murphy proposes crackdown on workplace misconduct

Gov. Phil Murphy announces legislation to overhaul New Jersey’s anti-workplace harassment law for public and private employers on February 18. (Edwin J. Torres for the Governor’s Office)

Gov. Phil Murphy announces legislation to overhaul New Jersey’s anti-workplace harassment law for public and private employers on February 18. (Edwin J. Torres for the Governor’s Office)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has floated legislation that would crack down on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. He made the proposal as he defended himself over allegations of a toxic atmosphere on his 2017 gubernatorial campaign and after a year-long review of state law on the subject.

The legislation would clarify what counts as a “hostile work environment” in New Jersey law. It would also require all public and private employers to enact policies around harassment and discrimination.

“Far too many people have suffered quietly at their place of work, feeling degraded and let down by the same law that is intended to protect against this intolerable behavior,” Murphy said at a press conference Tuesday. “It is my hope that, with these changes, no one will experience this mistreatment again.”

Murphy said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, who is holding a series of hearings across the state on sexual misconduct in politics, would sponsor the legislation. Weinberg previously led the hearings into allegations by Katie Brennan, a campaign volunteer for Murphy and now a state official, who said she was raped by a staffer working on Murphy’s gubernatorial bid.

Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, who helped craft the legislation, said victims of sexual harassment and assault should feel comfortable coming forward.

“The problem lies with power and control, the kind that a person exploits to abuse or harm another person, and the kind of power and control that allows them to get away with it and keep the victim silent,” she said.

Yet Murphy continues to face questions over whether he appropriately dealt with allegations of misconduct during his 2017 campaign for governor.

Julie Roginsky, a former advisor to Murphy, told NJ Advance Media that she faced verbal abuse from fellow campaign staffers in what she called “the most toxic workplace environment I have ever seen.”

Murphy recently apologized — without naming Roginsky specifically — for any workplace issues that arose during the campaign. He told reporters on Tuesday that he took all claims of misconduct seriously but declined to discuss specific incidents.

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