New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law The Opportunity to Compete Act, otherwise known as the “Ban the Box” bill. This legislation will restrict employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background during the initial stages of the application process. The law will take effect on March 1, 2015, the first day of the seventh month following the signing date.
The New Jersey State Legislature passed the re-introduced bill in June. This version of the legislation (A1999), however, does not include certain procedural hurdles employers would have been required to satisfy under prior versions of the bill that failed to garner sufficient support for passage.
The legislation applies to employers who employ at least 15 employees over 20 calendar weeks and who do business, employ persons, or take applications for employment within New Jersey. The legislation prohibits an employer from: (1) requiring an applicant to complete any employment application that makes any inquiries regarding the applicant’s criminal record; and/or (2) making any oral or written inquiry regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the “initial employment application process.”
The “initial employment application process” begins when an applicant or employer first makes an inquiry to the other party about a prospective position and concludes when the “employer has conducted a first interview, whether in person or by any other means, of an applicant for employment.”
Further, the legislation prohibits employers from publishing any advertisements or solicitations for employment stating that the employer will not consider any applicant who has been arrested or convicted of one or more offenses.
New Jersey employers should begin reviewing their employment applications and their application processes, including interview guides, sample questions, and job postings, to ensure compliance with the legislation’s requirements. Further, employers should begin to plan new processes for conducting criminal background procedures.