by Jeffrey A. Gruen
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed the state’s “ban the box” legislation, meaning that most employers will be prohibited from asking applicants about their criminal histories until the conclusion of the first job interview.
The legislature passed the Opportunity to Compete Act in June, and Christie signed it on August 11. It will go into effect March 1, 2015. The law applies to New Jersey employers with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks.
The Act prohibits employers from making oral or written inquiries about applicants’ criminal records during the period between the applicant’s first query about employment and the conclusion of the first interview. After that period, an employer is free to inquire about and refuse to hire an applicant because of his criminal record unless the relevant crime has been expunged. The hiring decision must be consistent with other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
The Act’s prohibitions don’t apply to domestic service employees at someone’s home; independent contractors; directors or trustees; employees in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security, or emergency management; or positions for which a criminal background check is required by law, rule, or regulation.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights will have the authority to impose civil penalties of up to $10,000, depending on the employer’s prior violations. However, the Act doesn’t provide for a private claim.
For more information on New Jersey’s “ban the box” law, see the August issue of New Jersey Employment Law Letter.