New Jersey Bans The Box

Written by Robert G. Brody and Susan M. Westphal on September 30, 2014

New Jersey is the newest state to join the “Ban the Box” movement, an effort promoting legislation that limits inquiries about criminal history during the employment process.  As we recently reported, some states are requiring certain private employers to remove questions regarding criminal history from their employment applications or initial hiring processes.

On August 11, 2014, New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act (“Act”) was signed into law.  It will go into effect in March 2015.  Among other provisions, this law states that a covered employer “shall not require an applicant for employment to complete any employment application that makes any inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal record 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 any inquiry to an applicant for employment about a prospective employment position or job vacancy, and ending when an employer has conducted a first interview, whether in person or by any other means, of an applicant for employment.”

While there are some exceptions to this rule, generally, after the initial employment application process is completed, an inquiry into the applicant’s criminal history is permitted.  Decisions on whether or not to hire the applicant based on criminal history are still to be done in accordance with applicable law.  Penalties for violations of the Act are fines which escalate in amount based on the number of violations: $1,000 for the first violation, $3,000 for the second, and $10,000 for each violation thereafter, payable to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

If you are unsure how this new law impacts your hiring process or whether or not your state has any type of ban on asking about criminal history pre-employment, you should consult legal counsel.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.

About the Authors

Robert G. Brody is the founding member of Brody and Associates, LLC. He has been quoted and published in national publications and appears as a guest T.V. commentator on contemporary Labor and Employment issues. Learn More

Susan Westphal has represented employers in employment disputes covering wage and hour claims, discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and employment at will, both in court and before administrative agencies. Learn More »