New “Ban the Box” Law Set to Go Into Effect in New Jersey on March 1, 2015

by Cora MacLean

According to media reports, Governor Christie recently signed the NJ “Ban the Box” law.  A copy of the Senate bill can be found here.  The law, which would go into effect on March 1, 2015, prohibits employers with New Jersey based employees from inquiring (either on the job application or otherwise) about a job applicant’s criminal or arrest background during the “initial employment application process.”  The initial employment application process is defined as the time from application until the applicant’s first interview (whether in person “or by any other means”).  After the initial employment application process is complete, the employer may inquire about the applicant’s criminal and arrest history.  Employers also are barred from posting advertisements stating that applicants with criminal or arrest histories need not apply for the job.  While individuals have no private cause of action under the law, the NJ Department of Labor can impose civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation.

The law has several important exceptions that are potentially applicable to Medical Centers (depending on the job title).  First, an employer may initially inquire about an applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment process if:

(a)  the employment position is one where a criminal history background check is required by law, rule or regulation

(b) where an arrest or conviction by the applicant for one or more crimes or offenses would or may preclude the applicant from holding such employment as required by any law, rule or regulation, or

(c)  where any law, rule, or regulation restricts the employer’s ability to engage in specified business activities based on the criminal records of its employees;

Employment positions in law enforcement, corrections, judiciary, homeland security, and emergency management also are excepted.