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By: Joyce M. Mocek
Recently, New Jersey joined the growing number of states prohibiting employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories in the hiring process.
“The Opportunity to Compete Act”, signed by New Jersey Governor Christie this week, goes into effect on March 1, 2015. This law prevents companies with more than 15 employees (over 20 calendar weeks) from inquiry, whether verbal or written, into an applicant’s criminal record during the initial application process. It also imposes certain requirements on employers as it relates to advertisements.
The law carves out certain types of employment, including law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security and emergency management, and/or positions where a criminal history record check is required by law, rule or regulation.
The new law does permit an employer to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history after the initial interview. The employer is also permitted to further inquire if the applicant voluntarily discloses their criminal history.
The Act imposes penalties up to $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
As more and more states and municipalities join the growing trend with “ban the box” requirements, employers should conduct a thorough review of their employment applications to make sure there are no boxes or questions that inquire into whether an applicant has been convicted of any crimes. Employer’s should also review their hiring policies and practices, and confirm that training is conducted for appropriate personnel on the most recent EEOC guidelines and state laws on “ban the box” requirements.