New Jersey “Ban the Box” Enforcement Sweep Causes Changes in Hiring Policies

“Ban the Box”

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On September 30, 2021, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced that fifteen companies had agreed to stop including language about the criminal history of applicants in their job advertisements and to make changes to their hiring practices following the largest-ever “Ban the Box” enforcement sweep made under “The Opportunity to Compete Act.”

According to the joint statement: “The Opportunity to Compete Act reduces obstacles to employment for people with criminal records by, among other things, barring covered employers from making inquiries regarding a candidate’s criminal history during the initial employment application process and prohibiting them from stating in job advertisements that candidates will not be considered if they have criminal records.”

The New Jersey “Ban the Box” law – which took effect in 2015 – prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from requiring that a job applicant complete any form during the “initial application process” that asks about their criminal record, and also prohibits an employer from making any inquiry regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the initial application process, which ends when the employer has conducted a first interview.

In addition, “The Opportunity to Compete Act” bars employers in New Jersey from soliciting applicants for jobs through advertising that says the employer will not consider anyone who has a criminal record, with certain exceptions. The Act is designed to help persons with criminal histories to reintegrate into the community, become productive members of the workforce, and provide for their families and themselves.

Three of the fifteen companies reaching agreements with the State entered into Assurances of Voluntary Compliance after the Department of Labor and Workforce Development found them to have violated the Act and issued them Notices of Violation. All fifteen companies were found to have violated the law’s ban on the use of language in employment advertising that explicitly states that the employer will not consider ex-offenders.

“Here in New Jersey, we believe that a criminal record shouldn’t be a permanent barrier to employment, and that once you’ve paid your debt to society, you’re entitled to a fair shake when looking for work,” Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck explained in the joint statement. “With the enforcement sweep we’re announcing today, we’re sending a clear message to employers that they need to comply with the law.”

As of October 2021, states with “Ban the Box” laws include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

“Ban the Box” laws that remove the box applicants with criminal records are asked to check on applications and delay criminal history inquiries until later in the hiring process to help the estimated 70 million ex-offenders in the United States find work will continue to evolve, according to leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was named the #1 screening firm by HRO Today in 2020 – offers a variety of free resources for applicants and employers such as a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” a “Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page with an interactive map updated with the latest laws. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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