Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed Ban the Box legislation – (S2124) “The Opportunity to Compete Act” – that establishes certain employment rights for reformed ex-offenders and provides job applicants who have criminal records with protections when they seek employment. The law prevents employers from asking about criminal records of job applicants early in the hiring process The Ban the Box Act is available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/S2500/2124_I1.HTM.
Sponsored by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham (District 31-Hudson), Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (District 20-Union), Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (District 29-Essex), “The Opportunity to Compete Act” specifically prohibits employers from inquiring – either orally or in writing – about criminal records of job applicants or requiring job applicants to complete applications that ask about criminal records during the initial employment application process.
The Ban the Box Act defines “initial employment application process” as the period of time beginning when a job applicant first makes an inquiry to an employer about a position or when an employer first makes any inquiry to a job applicant for a position. The initial employment application process ends when employers conduct a first interview of applicants. Employers may ask about criminal records after the initial employment application process ends.
However, the Ban the Box Act does allow employers to ask about criminal records during the initial employment application process if:
- The position is in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland, security or emergency management;
- A criminal history record background check is required for the position by law;
- The position, by law, precludes employment of a person with an arrest for or a conviction of a crime or offense;
- The employer is restricted from specified business activities based on the criminal record of its employees; or
- The employment sought or being considered is for a position 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 for or convicted of crimes or offenses.
In addition, the Ban the Box Act prohibits employers from publishing advertisements for employment which state they will not consider applicants who have been arrested for or convicted of a crime or offense. Exceptions to this rule include advertisements for:
- Law enforcement, judicial, homeland security, and emergency management positions;
- Positions for which a background check is required by law;
- Positions which by law preclude employment of a person with an arrest for or a conviction of a crime or offense; and
- Positions with an employer which is restricted from specified business activities based on the criminal record of its employees.
Employers who violate the Ban the Box Act are liable for a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. The Ban the Box Act does not create or establish a standard of care or duty for employers with respect to any law and does not create, establish, or authorize a private cause of action by an aggrieved person against an employer who has violated the bill’s provisions.
This Ban the Box Act takes effect March 1, 2015 – “the first day of the seventh month next following the date of enactment” – and applies to businesses that employ 15 or more individuals. Governor Christie spoke about the Ban the Box legislation he signed in a video and transcript available at http://www.state.nj.us/governor/news/news/552014/approved/20140811g.html:
Today we are also going further to reform our criminal justice system by signing legislation that continues with our promise and commitment to give people a second chance. You’ve seen it through the work we are doing in drug rehabilitation across the state. This is a state that believes that every life is precious and that no life is beyond salvation, that everyone deserves a second chance in New Jersey, if they’ve made a mistake. So, today, we are banning the box and ending employment discrimination. And this is going to make a huge difference for folks who have paid their debts to society, who want to start their lives over again and are going to have an opportunity to do just that in our state. That’s what people want and it’s what they except and it’s what they deserved from those of us they entrust with public office.
BAN THE BOX INFORMATION FROM ESR
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ – is a nationwide background check firm accredited by the National Association of Professional background Screeners (NAPBS). ESR offers employers a Ban the Box Information Page containing links to the latest news and resources about the Ban the Box movement. The page is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Ban-the-Box/.