In March of 2015, New Jersey developed their “Opportunity to Compete Act” which stated that employers may not perform criminal background checks or make any inquiry about criminal records until after an interview. This was another state joining several others in creating “Ban the Box” legislation to give a fair opportunity to those with criminal records in securing employments.
The Opportunity to Compete Act is the standard practice for background check procedures, unless the applicant voluntarily discloses information about his or her criminal history during the application process. If this happens, then the employer may inquire further about the applicant’s criminal records.
In December, 2015, there were some additional clarifiers put into place regarding this Act in preparation of the new year. This law prohibits employers who employ 15 or more employees from publishing any job advertisement that states that any applicant with a criminal arrest or conviction will not be considered.
The one consideration that is taken into account is for those employers who use a uniform application for multi-state locations. In these instances, the application can ask the question about criminal records, however, it must state that an applicant for a position in New Jersey is instructed not to answer until after the initial interview.