Governor Murphy recently signed into law a Bill that expands the statute of limitations and categories of defendants who can be held liable in civil sexual assault cases. The Bill will take effect on December 1, 2019.

The primary aim of the law is to expand the window of time in which a child victim of sexual assault and other crimes of a sexual nature can file a civil lawsuit against his/her abuser. The law extends the statute of limitations for civil sex assault cases until the victim is 55 or seven years after he/she realizes the abuse.

Preventing Sexual Abuse Claims From Being Time-Barred

In much recent news concerning allegations of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church and in allegations related to the #MeToo movement, many civil claims have been barred due to the current two year statute of limitations, which affords anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse only two years to come forward and file a civil claim.

The primary sponsors of the bill emphasized the need to expand the statute of limitations for child victims: focusing on the complicated ways in which victims of sexual assault continue to experience trauma in the years that follow the abuse, which may also include victims not recognizing harm occurred, or gaining the ability to come forward, until years later.

What Does this Mean for Employers?

The enactment of this law is a significant change for any employer whose employees, volunteers, agents, etc. come into contact with children through their work. The law more than doubles the number of years before an employer may learn about a claim.  This means the likelihood of memories fading and documents being disposed of may be even more problematic than it has been previously. 

Despite this, the law expands those who can be held accountable for sexual crimes on a minor.  It specifically removes the prior immunities given to non-profit corporations, societies or associations organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes along with its trustees, director, officers, employees, agents, servants or volunteers who cause damage “by a willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission, including sexual assault” and crimes of a sexual nature as defined in the act. It also carves out an exception to the Tort Claims Act for claims against public entities. Therefore, employers should use extra precaution with respect to the interactions their employees, volunteers or representatives have when interacting with children and ensure all policies are up to date and enforced.

Contact a New Jersey Employment Discrimination Lawyer

 If you have questions about how this legislation may impact your workplace, contact Leslie Park at lpark@hoaglandlongo.com or call 732-545-4717 today.