Opportunity to Compete Act for Employment in NJ

New Jersey recently passed new legislation, the Opportunity to Compete Act (the “Act”), which bans the box on job applications that require job applicants to disclose criminal history information. The Act is designed to give individuals who have “paid their debts to society” a fresh start with regards to opportunities for employment.

What Is The Act?Employment Application Process

The Act prohibits employers from doing the following:

  • Posting job advertisements indicating that persons who have been arrested or convicted of a crime will not be considered for employment.
  • Requiring applicants to complete a job application that requires disclosure of their criminal history.

The Act covers only the initial employment application process which includes both the job application and the first interview of the job applicant.

The Act does not prohibit employers from running a criminal background check on an applicant after the first interview or, after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to the applicant.

Who Does The Act Apply To?

The Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees who do business, employ people, or take applications for employment in New Jersey.

When Does The Act Go Into Effect?

The Act will become effective on March 1, 2015.

What Action Needs To Be Taken By Employers?

  • Ensure that any advertisement or job posting for an open position does not state that applicants who have been arrested or convicted of a crime will not be considered for employment.
  • Review and revise your company employment application to ensure that applications do not request criminal history information.  For example, if the current employment application asks “Have you ever been convicted of a felony” then you should remove that question from the application.

What are the penalties for noncompliance?

Employers who violate the Act may be subject to civil penalties for non-compliance.  A first violation carries a fine of $1,000; a second violation $5,000; and each subsequent violation $10,000.

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Cristina Amyot

Cristina Amyot holds Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University and a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

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