New Jersey “Ban the Box” Law Takes Effect  on March 1, 2015

New Jersey “Ban the Box” Law Takes Effect  on March 1, 2015

New Jersey employers with 15 or more employees will need to comply with the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act, also known as “Ban the Box”, which will become effective on March 1, 2015. This law will be enforced by the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. New Jersey employers who do not comply could face civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation. Philadelphia employers have had to comply with a similar “Ban the Box” law since July 12, 2011.

Affected employers will need to remove the “box” on the employment application which asks candidates whether they have been convicted of a crime. Under this law, employers must complete an initial interview with a candidate prior to asking about the applicant’s criminal history. The first interview does not need to be conducted in person. There are several exceptions to the New Jersey law. It does not apply to positions in homeland security, law enforcement, corrections, emergency management, or other positions where a criminal background check is required by law. Also, the new law does not apply if the applicant cannot hold the employment position based on an arrest or conviction of certain crimes.

Nothing in this law requires an employer to hire a job applicant with a criminal record. However, employers need to carefully review the applicant based upon the nature of the position, the criminal offense, and the amount of time that has passed since the offense. Any extenuating circumstances should be considered along with rehabilitation and references.

Employers who do business in New Jersey should:

  • Review their employment application and remove any questions about criminal history
  • Review the hiring process and ensure anyone conducting an initial interview does not ask about the candidate’s criminal history (it is okay to ask after the initial interview)
  • Ensure any employment advertisements do not state that anyone with a criminal record or arrest will not be considered