Last month, the New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee advanced “The Opportunity to Compete Act,” commonly known as the “Ban the Box” bill, which if passed, will afford employment candidates with criminal histories some legal protection. Specifically, the new bill will prohibit an employer (with less than 15 employees) from inquiring about a candidate’s criminal history in connection with any employment decision during the pre-application or application process. An employer, however, is authorized to consider an applicant’s criminal history after the candidate has received an offer of conditional employment. In this event, the bill requires that an employer obtain the candidate’s written consent to conduct a background check and provide the candidate with a “Notice of Rights” outlining the protections that the candidate is entitled under the bill. If an employer wishes to rescind its offer of conditional employment based upon the applicant’s criminal history, the bill requires that the employer give written notification of the adverse employment decision to the candidate as well as a copy of the results of the criminal history inquiry, a completed Applicant Criminal Record Consideration Form and another copy of the “Notice of Rights.” The applicant will then be entitled to submit a response to the employer within 10 business days after receipt of the documentation above, to which the employer must respond within 45 days.
Failing to comply with the provisions of the bill subjects an employer to fines ranging from $500 to $7,500 depending on the number of employees within the company and whether the employer has committed previous violations.
We will continue to monitor the developments of this proposed legislation.