New Jersey Enacts Ban-the-Box Legislation

By Michael Klazema on 9/19/2014

The Opportunity to Compete Act applies to both private and public employers in New Jersey. Employers with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks and does business, employs persons, or takes applications for employment within the State are subject to the new law. Also subject to the law are job placement and referral agencies, and other employment agencies, interns, and apprentices. It does not apply to independent contractors, directors, or trustees. The Act applies to public state employees, including any county or municipality.

The Act prohibits employers from requiring an applicant for employment to complete an employment application that makes inquiries about an applicant’s criminal record, or from making any oral or written inquiries about criminal records during the initial employment application process. The “initial employment application process” is defined as the period beginning when an applicant for employment first makes an inquiry to an employer about a prospective employment position or job vacancy or when an employer first makes an inquiry to an applicant for employment about a prospective employment position or job vacancy, and ending when an employer has conducted a first interview. But, if an applicant voluntarily discloses information about his or her criminal record during the initial employment application process, then the employer may make inquiries about the applicant’s criminal record before making a job offer.

These restrictions do not apply if the employment sought or being considered is for a position:

  1. in law enforcement, corrections, judiciary, homeland security, or emergency management;
  2. where a criminal history record background check is required by law, rule, or regulation, or where an arrest or conviction by the person for one or more crimes or offenses would or may preclude the person from holding that employment as required by law, rule, or regulation; or
  3. designated by the employer to be part of a program or systematic effort designed predominantly or exclusively to encourage the employment of persons who have been arrested or convicted of one or more crimes or offenses.

The law does not prohibit employers from making inquiries about an applicant’s criminal history after the initial application process has concluded. Nor does it prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on an applicant’s criminal history, except that, employers may not consider any criminal record that has been expunged or erased through executive pardon.

Civil penalties will be assessed by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation; $5,000 for the second violation; and, $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

Most significantly, the law appears to explicitly pre-empt Newark’s ban-the-box law, which placed costly administrative burdens on employers wanting to use criminal history, even in circumstances that Newark’s law permitted. Our prior analysis of Newark’s law is available at:

Assembly Bill 1999 is available here for review:

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 22 Countrywide, states and local municipalities have committed to ban the box legislation, seeking to equalize opportunities in the job market for those with criminal histories.
  • March 22

    Thinking about becoming a firefighter? Here are some of the background check requirements you might face.

  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants.