Recently, the first hearing of the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics took place in Fort Lee. This panel discussion followed on the heels of NJ Advance Media and the Star-Ledger’s December 2019 report that focused on sexual assault and sexual harassment in state politics.
The hearing had presentations by elected officials, political consultants, and lobbyists. They described their experiences of workplace sexual abuse, harassment, and even rape. The panel took place in front of 50 people, and was the first hearing of its kind.
At the panel, allegations were made against one high ranking state politician. One labor official accused New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney of verbally threatening and intimidating her. Fran Ehret of the Communications Workers of America said that Sweeney perpetuates an atmosphere of toxic masculinity. She described a 2010 union meeting where tempers flared, and Sweeney told her that he would kick her ass if she was a man. Ehret told the group that this threatening behavior signified an abuse of power and sexism.
Ehret went on to describe events that took place at a Gloucester County Freeholder meeting. Sweeney was the freeholder director, and Ehret spoke out against him at the time. She stated that after the meeting, five men from the building trades walked behind her into an elevator and crowded her. Sweeney was contacted by phone after the hearing and said that he and Ehret have been feuding for years. He claimed that Ehret is dishonest and has tried to shut him out repeatedly, organizing public rallies against him and trying to silence him.
Room for Improvement
The Harding Township Democratic Committee Chairwoman spoke out about another topic: The prevalence of alcohol at political gatherings. As a new mother, she was unable to go to bars after meetings. She felt that leaders must make the political environments more welcoming for women, and advocated for gatherings to take place outside of parties and bars. She suggested daytime and online events.
The panel’s goal is to improve New Jersey’s political culture for women. Governor Murphy’s Deputy Chief of Staff emphasized that the administration’s strong commitment to change, adding that it would not be fast or easy. The administration pledged to work with experts to design better anti-harassment training programs. They also plan to include women of different religious and racial backgrounds, as they are most targeted for harassment.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect Employees from Workplace Sexual Harassment
Any employee can become victim to workplace sexual harassment and abuse, and the Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will fight to protect your rights. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel. For a free case evaluation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999.