New Jersey strengthens its Ban the Box laws

Blog Post

Thousands of New Jersey job applicants have criminal histories ranging from less significant misdemeanors to more serious felonies. These applicants often struggle to secure employment in a competitive job market, based on convictions that may no longer be relevant to the job for which they applied.

What is New Jersey’s Ban the Box law?

New Jersey legislation “The Opportunity to Compete Act,” also known as the “Ban the Box” law, originally went into effect in 2015. The legislation eliminates the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from New Jersey employment applications. Furthermore, it restricts employers from asking any questions related to the candidate’s criminal history throughout the initial employment application process.

Luckily for New Jersey job seekers with criminal histories, the opportunities for a fair-chance hiring process have increased. On December 20, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill 3306 into law, effectively expanding the Ban the Box mandates to further protect job applicants by prohibiting any employer inquiries, whether written or oral, into an applicant’s expunged criminal records. It even extends to ban employers from conducting online searches into an applicant’s criminal record, both current and expunged.

New Jersey is the latest jurisdiction to join several others – including California’s Ban the Box laws – in the sweeping movement to create more fair-chance hiring initiatives for those with prior criminal histories.

What can employers do to prepare?

In light of these new mandates, here are a few tips for employers to consider to remain compliant when hiring:

  • Double-check that your employment applications are free of any questions related to an applicant’s prior criminal history
  • Train your employees responsible for hiring on the types of questions they cannot ask throughout the interview process
  • Inspect job advertisements/posters and remove any language that states, or infers, that applicants with prior criminal records, expunged or otherwise, will not be considered for employment
  • Develop and clearly communicate guidelines to employees on inquiring into an applicant’s prior criminal history after the initial application phase (e.g. second-round interview) that centers the decision on an applicant’s merits first, not their past mistakes

What can New Jersey job seekers do to amend their criminal records?

For New Jersey individuals with prior criminal records looking to rid their past convictions from their reports, there’s a process where one may apply to the New Jersey Superior Court to have their record expunged. This process applies to many types of offenses up to, and including, certain felony charges. The qualifications for expungement of one’s records can vary based on severity of the charge or charges, as follows:

Indictable offenses:

  • 6 years from date of most recent conviction
  • Payment of fine
  • Satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration

Disorderly/Petty offenses:

  • 5 years from date of most recent conviction
  • Payment of fine
  • Satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration

Juvenile Records:

  • Reduced from 5 years to 3 years

Job applicants wondering what criminal charges may be affecting their background checks and employment opportunities can view their own free background check at Better Future.

Compliance Corner

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