On August 11, Governor Chris Christie signed the “Opportunity to Compete Act” into law. It limits the ability of New Jersey employers to inquire into a job applicant’s criminal record. The law will become effective March 1, 2015.
This new law applies to all public and private employers that employ 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks. It also sets up hurdles that must be surmounted before an employer can inquire into one’s criminal record.
First, the employer must have interviewed the individual. Second, the employer must have determined that the candidate is qualified for the position. Lastly, the employer must have chosen the applicant as its first choice to fill the position.
However, unlike similar laws in other states, the NJ law still allows employers to run a criminal background check before extending a formal offer.
Under the groundbreaking law, even after the initial employment application process is over, employers will still be prohibited from running criminal background checks for expunged records, arrests that did not result in convictions, disorderly conduct convictions that are five or more years old, and fourth-degree crimes that are 10 or more years old.
Additionally, the Opportunity to Compete Act limits the ability of an employer to post job advertisements stating that they will consider individuals who were arrested or convicted of a crime.
If an employer is found in violation of the Act, he or she can be hit with a $1,000 civil penalty. The penalty increases to $5,000 for a second violation and $10,000 for all subsequent violations.
However, there is no private right of action for violation of the law. That means an individual cannot sue an employer based on the law. Only the government can enforce it.
Lastly, the Opportunity to Compete Act also prevents local governments from enacting their own laws regarding the same subject matter and preempts any law already in existence.
Consequently, as of March 1, 2015, Newark’s “ban the box” law will be preempted and supplanted by this state-wide law.
If you recently were charged with a crime in New Jersey, be sure to contact Rosenblum Law today at 888-815-3649.