- Of Counsel
On August 11, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law “The Opportunity to Compete Act,” also known as the “Ban the Box” bill. In an effort to remove barriers to employment for people with prior criminal records and, in turn, prevent recidivism, the law restricts employers having fifteen or more employees from inquiring into the criminal background of prospective employees and current employees applying for new positions during the “initial employment application process,” meaning the period beginning with an initial employment inquiry and ending when an employer has conducted a first interview. This prohibition extends to inquiries made through employment applications and any oral or written inquiries.
Once the initial employment application process has concluded, an employer may inquire into the criminal history of a prospective employee and is permitted to reject an applicant based upon the applicant’s criminal record. The Act also contains exceptions to the prohibition. For example, if the applicant is applying for a law enforcement position or if the applicant voluntarily discloses any information regarding his or her criminal history during the initial employment application process, the employer is then allowed to inquire about the applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process.
The Act specifically cites employer advertisements. Under the new law, employers are forbidden from publishing advertisements stating that applicants who have been arrested or convicted of a crime will not be considered. Local governments are also specifically addressed in the new law. They are prevented from adopting any ordinance, resolution, law or regulation regarding criminal histories in the context of employment, except for ordinances adopted to regulate municipal operations.
The Act sets forth penalties for violations– a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. These penalties are the sole remedy for violations of the Act. In other words, the Act does not create or establish private causes of action by an aggrieved person against an employer who has violated the Act.
Employers should determine if the Ban the Box law applies to them. If applicable, an employer should immediately review (and revise, if necessary) its recruitment and hiring practices and documents for compliance by March 1, 2015.
The firm is pleased to be a sponsor at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mercer October 17 fundraiser event at Cobblestone Creek Country Club in Lawrence, New Jersey. The event features dishes from several of the area's finest restaurants, tastings of wine and beer and live music. The evening will honor individuals who volunteer time and commitment making BBBS Mercer a success. For more information go to www.bbbsmercer.org
Womanspace's Annual Communities of Light Event on December 2nd is a public awareness project and fundraising campaign to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The launch event is free and open to the public. It includes a press conference and reception and will take place at 5:30 PM on October 22 at Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road in Lawrenceville. Edwin Schmierer, Director with Mason, Griffin & Pierson is a member of the Board of Directors of Womanspace and the firm is a sponsor of the event. The event will honor the Police Chiefs and coordinators of Mercer County. More information at www.womanspace.org.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson is pleased to be a sponsor at the Philly Pops concert to benefit The Foundation of Morris Hall/St. Lawrence, Inc. The Foundation provides funding for skilled nursing, out patient health care, and rehabilitation for residents at Morris Hall and St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. The concert will be at the Patriots Theater, Trenton War Memorial. For information and tickets go to www.morrishall.org/events.php
The firm is a sponsor for the November 24 Girls on the Run Central New Jersey 5K in downtown Somerville, New Jersey. Girls on the Run is a program for girls in grades 3 through 8 which teaches girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Associate Attorney Nicole Sciotto is member of the Advisory Board of Girls on the Run, Central New Jersey Chapter. For more information, including donations and race registration, please visit www.gotrcnj.org.
The firm is a sponsor for the November 2 West Windsor Mayor's Ball. The event takes place at the Boathouse on Mercer Lake in West Windsor and benefits the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company. For more information go to www.westwindsornj.org/WW-givesback/index.html.
Trishka Waterbury Cecil, past President of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (NJILGA), is a presenter at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City. Mandatory Certification Class For New Board Members, sponsored by New Jersey Planning Officials is on November 19. Muincipal Law Update 2019, sponsored by New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, and OPMA/Civility/Administration of Public Meetings, sponsored by New Jersey State League of Municipalities are on November 21. For more information, go to www.njpo.org, www.njilga.org or www.njlm.org.