New Jersey legislators have proposed a law to prevent employers in the Garden State from asking prospective employees about their criminal history on job applications. This "Ban the Box" proposal refers to the box often included on job applications that applicants are asked to check off if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
The Opportunity to Compete Act, introduced February 7, would ban employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history until after a conditional employment offer has been made. A pair of New Jersey cities, Newark and Atlantic City, already have enacted their own Ban the Box ordinances. More than 40 cities nationwide have passed similar laws.
The New Jersey bill would apply to both private and public employers. Only Massachusetts and Hawaii have enacted Ban the Box laws that cover all employers. Other states, including Connecticut, Minnesota and New Mexico, have Ban the Box laws that are restricted to public employers. Meanwhile, California limits what public employers may ask applicants with certain exceptions.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disfavors the use of criminal history questions on job application forms because it views such inquiries as having a disparate impact on minority applicants. In an April 2012 Enforcement Guidance, the EEOC discussed how an employer's use of criminal history information in making employment decisions could violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.
According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the state has a recidivism rate of 55 percent. This legislation aims to lower that figure by making it easier for ex-offenders to find a job. Under the measure, New Jersey employers could still revoke a conditional job offer for certain crimes, including murder, attempted murder, arson, sex offenses requiring registry and acts of terrorism.
Recruiting and Hiring > Preemployment Screening and Testing: New Jersey
EEOC, CORI Arrest and Conviction Podcast