On August 11, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the “Opportunity to Compete Act” (Bill 1999) into existence. The Act will become law in New Jersey on March 15, 2015. The Act limits the ability of “covered” New Jersey employers from looking into an applicant’s criminal record at any time during the “initial application process”. Employers will no longer be able to have on their written or online applications a box to mark or a question concerning whether the applicant has a criminal record. In addition, employers cannot ask (verbally) applicants if they have a criminal record. However if an applicant brings this up of their own accord, then the employer is free to explore the nature of the applicant’s criminal history.
Obviously there are exceptions to the Act. For example, law enforcement, homeland security, corrections, judiciary and jobs of a similar nature allow employers to inquire if an applicant has a criminal background. Interestingly though, after the “initial application process” an employer may inquire into an applicant’s background to see if they have a criminal record and then make a determination on whether to hire the employee. For purposes of the Act, a covered New Jersey employer is defined in the Act as an employer who employs 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks.
A first violation of the Act will result in a fine not to exceed $1,000 and $5,000 for a second violation. In preparation for complying with this act employers should review their application process and remove references to criminal history and make sure to train employees regarding illegal questions during the interview process. If you have any questions please feel free to call Douglas Leavitt or any of the attorneys at Danziger Shapiro and Leavitt. We will be happy to discuss this and any other issue that may be affecting your business.
This entry is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.