As we previously wrote about here, here, here, and here, the New Jersey Legislature has been considering “ban the box” legislation since February 2013. Amidst opposition from business groups, the proposed law underwent several changes over the last 16 months. On June 5, 2014, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 9-1 to approve a significantly less onerous version of the bill. The current version of the bill, available here, now awaits approval from the full Senate.
This version prohibits employers from making verbal or written inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the “initial employment application process.” The initial employment application process is defined as the period between an applicant’s first inquiry about prospective employment and the conclusion of the first interview, whether in person or by other means. After the initial employment application process, an employer is free to inquire about and refuse to hire an applicant because of his or her criminal record, unless the relevant crime has been expunged and provided that such a decision is consistent with other applicable laws, rules, and regulations. This is significantly less onerous on employers than prior versions of the bill, which outlined a lengthy process for criminal background checks and enumerated the crimes about which an employer could inquire.
The current bill also prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements that explicitly state that applicants with arrests or convictions will not be considered.
The bill applies to employers with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks doing business in New Jersey. “Employees” include interns and apprentices but exclude domestic service personnel employed at someone’s home, independent contractors, and directors or trustees. Also excluded are positions in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security, emergency management, and positions where a criminal background check is required by law, rule, or regulation, such as bankers.
Finally, the current bill provides for civil penalties ranging between $1,000 and $10,000 for violations. However, it explicitly states that no private cause of action exists. If it passes, the new law will take effect 7 months after its enactment. The Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development will be permitted to take anticipatory administrative actions necessary for implementation during that time.
We will keep you updated on any new developments with this law, which is gaining momentum and appears likely to pass after the recent, significant revisions.