On August 11, 2014, New Jersey signed into law “ban the box” legislation, known as the “Opportunity to Compete Act.” The Act becomes effective March 1, 2015. The Act is designed to “Remove obstacles to employment for people with criminal records,” provide “economic and social opportunities to a large group of people living in New Jersey,” and increase “the productivity, health, and safety of New Jersey communities.” The intent and purpose of the Act is to improve “the economic viability, health, and security of New Jersey communities and to assist people with criminal records to reintegrate into the community, become productive members of the workforce, and to provide for their families and themselves.” 34:6B-12(2)(a-j). The act applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits requests for criminal history on initial employment applications. “An employer shall not require an application for employment to complete any employment application that makes any inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process.” 34:6B-14(4)(a)(1). Importantly, an employer may refuse to hire an applicant for employment based upon the criminal record “unless the criminal record or relevant portion thereof has been expunged…” Thus, employers are barred from using expunged criminal records at any point in the employee application or hiring process.

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