New Jersey Attorney General amps up actions against systemic racism in professional services

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TRENTON, NJ - APRIL 5, 2018: New Jersey state capitol building in Trenton

by Gema de las Heras, OAG office

NEWARK – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced the publication of proposed rules to root out discrimination and bias-based harassment within the professions and occupations regulated by 51 boards supported by the Division of Consumer Affairs.

The proposed rules, if adopted, will clarify and firmly establish that discriminatory conduct, bias-based harassment, and retaliation against individuals who exercise their rights under anti-discrimination laws constitute professional or occupational misconduct that may be grounds for disciplining a professional licensee, including by suspending or revoking a professional license or certificate.

“We are committed to ensuring racial justice and equity for underserved communities,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “Today’s rule proposal brings us one step closer to that goal for members of the professions and occupations regulated by our licensing boards – as well as for the public they serve.”

Systemic inequities and discrimination have been associated with a wide variety of professional services. For instance, reports indicate that members of historically underrepresented groups continue to face obstacles to entering licensed professions; that people of color are still too often treated differently as consumers of professional services because of their race; and that other inequities exist in access to professional services.

If adopted, the proposed rules will make clear to all licensees and the public that New Jersey’s professional boards have the authority to discipline licensees who engage in unlawful discriminatory conduct against any current or prospective client, patient, student, supervisee, colleague, or employee. Unlawful discrimination includes any conduct that violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination or any other applicable federal or state civil rights or anti-discrimination law.

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Upon adoption, the proposal would apply to approximately 720,000 licensees overseen by 51 professional and occupational boards. Three of the boards and committees supported by the Division of Consumer Affairs—the Board of Social Work Examiners, the Alcohol and Drug Counselor Committee, and the Board of Psychological Examiners—already have explicit anti-discrimination regulations. The proposed rules will supplement those existing ones.

Today’s rule proposal is part of Governor Murphy’s commitment to pursue racial equity for all New Jerseyans, and the Office of the Attorney General’s Racial Justice Initiative.

The proposed new rules, and information on how to submit a comment by May 6, 2022, can be viewed here.