(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Arthur Barclay, Patricia Egan Jones, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt and Joann Downey sponsored to establish a protocol to help public employers support employees who are victims of domestic violence gained approval Monday in the Assembly.
The bill (A-4124) would require the Civil Service Commission to develop a uniform domestic violence policy, which all public employers shall adopt and distribute to employees. The policy would encourage victims of domestic violence to seek confidential assistance from the human resources department at work.
"Domestic violence affects the lives of many state workers throughout New Jersey," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "There should be a policy in place to guide human resource workers in helping state employees in the workplace who are dealing with domestic violence."
"Victims of domestic violence often do not know where to turn for help with their situation," said Barclay (D-Camden/Gloucester). "They should be able to receive support from their workplace. This legislation will help to put those policies in place."
"A victim of domestic violence who may want to ask for help at work might hesitate, perhaps out of a fear that bringing up personal matters in the office will be viewed as unprofessional or out of a concern about whether what they disclose will be kept private," said Jones (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Establishing official, uniform guidelines will emphasize that human resources officers are there to help and will keep victims' information confidential."
"Employers can play a vital role in helping domestic violence victims leave a dangerous situation, but the first step is fostering environments in which employees feel comfortable and safe enough to report what's happening," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "A plan that makes it clear that an employee can ask for help at work and outlines what an employer can do has the potential to save lives in New Jersey."
"Domestic violence may not happen at the office, but it certainly affects an employee's overall well-being and ability to do his or her best in the workplace," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. "The human resources department can - and should - be a resource for public employees in abusive situations."
"Sometimes work may be the only place someone in an abusive relationship can go without being under the close surveillance of his or her abuser," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "This legislation is about making sure employees know that the office can be a place of refuge during a time of need."
Under the bill, the uniform domestic violence policy must include:
- a declaration encouraging employees who are victims of domestic violence to contact their human resources officer and seek assistance;
- a confidential method for employees to report domestic violence incidents to human resources officers;
- a confidentiality policy to which human resources officers receiving reports of domestic violence must adhere, unless a domestic violence incident poses an emergent danger to employees and the involvement of law enforcement is necessary;
- a listing of available state and local resources, support services, treatment options, advocacy and legal services, medical and counseling services and law enforcement assistance services for domestic violence victims;
- a requirement that an employee's records pertaining to a domestic violence incident or domestic violence counseling be kept separate from the employee's other personnel records;
- an explanation of the requirements of the "New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act"; and
- a requirement for the public employer to develop a plan to identify, respond to and correct employee performance issues that may be caused by a domestic violence incident.
The bill would require the Civil Service Commission to consult with human resources officers, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, social workers and other persons trained in counseling, crisis intervention or in the treatment of domestic violence victims to develop the policy.
The Assembly passed the measure 76-0. The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.