New Jersey weighs work standards overhaul to address toxicity

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Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey will re-evaluate workplace standards and guidelines for state employees.

"I am committed to making real, positive, and long-lasting changes to address the culture in Trenton," Murphy said in a statement. "Particularly around reports of the unacceptable treatment of women."

The Thursday announcement comes after Murphy promised to address what he and others have said is a toxic and misogynistic culture in state politics. Murphy says the administration will bring on a labor expert to examine the state's current procedures and recommend how to proceed.

A December report by NJ.com cited dozens of incidents of misconduct over the years, including groping, unwanted advances and even assault. The report prompted state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to create a panel of women to address the issue. The Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics held its first meeting on Feb. 11.

RELATED: Labor union leader says Sen. Sweeney threatened to ‘kick her ass’ if she were a man 
RELATED: Witnesses, public gather at meeting to address misogyny in New Jersey politics 

Nearly a dozen women spoke at that meeting to tell stories about their experiences in New Jersey. Among them was Communication Workers of America labor union leader Fran Ehret, who accused Senate President Steve Sweeney of threatening to “kick [her] ass” if “[she] was a man.”

Sweeney told NJ.com that he doesn't share Ehret’s recollection of the 2010 incident, but said that he won't dispute it. He went on to say that he remains dedicated to advancing policies that promote equal rights and opportunities for all women.

The NJ.com report and the aftermath that followed mostly stems from the situation surrounding Katie Brennan – a former volunteer for the Murphy campaign who alleges that she was raped by Albert Alvarez, another Murphy campaign staffer. Alvarez has denied the allegations and has never been charged.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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