The New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act implements several new requirements governing criminal background checks by prospective employers for job applicants. The law, which will take effect next March, prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from asking about a job applicant’s criminal record until after initial job interview. Employers will no longer be able to ask job seekers whether they have been convicted of a crime on a job application or at the first interview. They will only be able to do so legally after the initial interview. The law also prohibits employers from refusing to hire applicants based upon criminal records that have been expunged. The law does not apply to job positions which involve public safety and trust, such as law enforcement, the judiciary, or homeland security.
The law’s sponsor, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Jersey City, said it will “give people – even who were never incarcerated but who’ve had an issue with the justice system at some point or another – an opportunity for a better job.” Employers in NJ should review their hiring practices with a competent employment attorney and implement changes, if necessary, in advance of March 2015.