Change is on the way in NJ to how employers can conduct background checks

ChecklistOn Tuesday, NJ Governor Chris Christie issued this press release announcing bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen New Jersey’s already existing ban the box law, known as “The Opportunity to Compete Act.” 

NJ’s ban the box law, which I previously blogged about here, makes it unlawful for companies with 15 or more employees to:

  • advertise that people with criminal records cannot apply for job opening; and
  • inquire about an applicant’s criminal history before finishing the first job interview.

What’s new, you ask? Well, the press release identified Senate Bill 3306 as a “bipartisan endeavor [that] would prevent those with current and expunged criminal records from being discriminated against at the early stages of employment pursuits.”

While the full text of Senate Bill 3306 isn’t available yet. I’m going to assume that expunged criminal records are off limits until at least after the first job interview — to the extent that asking about expunged criminal records is on your job-interview checklist.

(There are various exceptions to “ban the box,” where are enumerated in the statute, including for any position where employment sought or being considered is for a position where a criminal history record background check is required by law, rule or regulation).

While is there is no private cause of action for violations of ban the box, there are some stiff penalties. Covered employers that violate the law will be fined $1000 for a first violation, $5000 for a second violation, and $10,000 for each one after that.

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