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News for Employers: “Ban the Box” Legislation

A bill commonly known as “Ban the Box” was recently passed by both Houses of the New Jersey State Legislature. The bill (A1999/S1484) would provide someone with a criminal history certain protections when seeking employment. Known as “The Opportunity to Compete Act”, the bill seeks to prohibit an employer from conducting a criminal background check on employment candidates during the pre-application and application process. Once a qualified candidate has received a conditional offer of employment, an employer would then be authorized to inquire about and consider a candidate’s criminal history, provided that the candidate is given written notice of the criminal background check and consents to it. Depending on the severity of the crime, the bill establishes time lines for how long a conviction may be considered by an employer when making an employment decision. Convictions for certain serious crimes (such as murder, arson, robbery, kidnapping, etc.) can be considered by the employer regardless of when the crime occurred. The bill provides no causes of actions by private parties, but would subject employers to pay fines of $1,000 to $10,000 for failure to comply with the law. At this time, the bill is awaiting action by the Governor.

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