One of the most politically connected organizations in New Jersey will work with a newly formed working group to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) announced a partnership to strategically address the issue of workplace sexual harassment in New Jersey.
The organizations will partner with a series of free sexual harassment prevention seminars throughout the state this year, targeted to senior level business executives.
The time and location of the first seminars will be announced at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Walk to Washington on Feb. 27 and 28.
Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the idea for the seminars began after talks on how to improve the culture of Walk to Washington and other events the Chamber offers.
“Our dialogue started by exploring how the State Chamber can be a leader in improving the culture … and make them safer and more welcoming for all,” stated Bracken. “It naturally expanded into a broader conversation about making all work environments comfortable for everyone to work and thrive.”
NJCASA executive director Patricia Teffenhart believes the seminars are an important first step in working to create environments free of sexual harassment.
“Executives are in a position to make workplaces safer for everyone by setting the tone from the top that their organizations are not places where harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment and assault, is tolerated,” said Teffenhart.
Previosuly, The Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics launched an anonymous survey on misogyny and sexual misconduct in politics with NJCASA. The group is also planning public “listening sessions” and private meetings with women.
For the Chamber, this continues an attempt to change its culture after coming under fire for the behavior at its events. In January, it initiated steps designed to address potential harassment at the Walk to Washington, specifically publishing a new Code of Conduct, increasing security, establishing a hotline for immediate reporting of incidents, and banning hard alcohol on the charter train ride.
“Business leaders are in powerful positions to initiate change,” Bracken said. “The goal is straightforward. There is no place for sexual harassment anywhere. Let’s work together and fight harassment everywhere. The fight starts with our own workplaces.”
Because the Chamber hosts many business conferences and networking events, the training will include modules focused on preventing harassment at events and effectively responding to it when reported.
Additionally, NJCASA will help the Chamber develop the response procedures for the incident hotline established for the Walk to Washington. The two organizations plan to partner on additional initiatives during 2020 to raise awareness about the issue.
“Culture change is slow and methodical,” Teffenhart said. “The Chamber has taken a step forward in addressing toxicity and expanding a professional environment that heightens the principles of safety and equity. We look forward to continuing our work together and strengthening this practice through the coming years.”
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