New Jersey Job Applicants are Protected Against Discrimination on the Basis of their Criminal History
One of the hardest things in life is looking for a job with a criminal record. Many employers conduct background checks on potential employees. If an employer performs a background check on a job applicant and finds out they have a criminal history, they may refuse to hire them. Even in a case where charges were withdrawn or an individual was acquitted, a criminal record can prevent the individual from being employed. Fortunately, there are laws in place that protect job applicants against discrimination based on criminal history. Employment laws in New Jersey and other states give certain employment rights to job applicants with criminal records. However, several provisions of federal law can indirectly affect the way employers conduct background checks on potential employees.
New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act
The New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act (OTCA), also known as the New Jersey “ban the box” law, went into effect in 2015. The OTCA restricts most employers’ ability to request criminal history information from individuals who apply for jobs. New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act provides that an employer (any person, corporation, firm, company, labor organization, or association with at least 15 employees) is not allowed to ask a job applicant about their criminal history on the employment application or during the initial interview.
In New Jersey, an employer can only inquire about a job applicant’s criminal record under limited circumstances. According to the New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act, an employer can only ask a job applicant about their criminal record in an employment application or during an initial interview if;
- The employment being sought is for a position in corrections, law enforcement, homeland security, the judiciary, or emergency management;
- The employment being sought is for a position where a criminal history record background check is required by law, rule, or regulation;
- An arrest or conviction may prevent the individual from holding the position by law;
- The criminal record of the employees may prevent the employer from engaging in a certain business;
- The employment being sought is for a position designated by the employer as part of a program designated to encourage the employment of people with criminal records.
Penalties for Violating the New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act
If an employer discriminates against a job applicant because of their criminal history, they can face civil liability. Any employer who violates the OTCA shall be liable for a civil penalty in an amount not exceeding $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for any other subsequence violation.
In conclusion, you should note that according to New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act, if you disclose any information regarding your criminal record by voluntary written or oral disclosure during the initial employment application process, the employer can ask you about your criminal record during that process.
Contact The Trabosh Law Firm
If a potential employer has discriminated against you in New Jersey because of your criminal history, contact the Trabosh Law Firm today to discuss your case.