The Use of Criminal History in Hiring

New Jersey recently joined the growing movement to “Ban the Box.” This is an attempt to facilitate reentry for those who have served their time. It also promotes fair employment outcomes for those with criminal convictions. In August 2014, New Jersey joined six other states in limiting the use of criminal history in the employment application process by enacting the Opportunity to Compete Act.

The Opportunity to Compete Act limits how employers can consider and investigate the criminal background of applicants. Employers may not post advertisements that state they will not consider applicants with arrest records or convictions, nor may they ask about criminal history at the early stages of the application process. After the first interview, employers may run background checks on applicants or inquire about criminal history.

Even in industries or jobs which require background checks, such as nursing and teaching, employers are prohibited from asking about criminal history until after the first interview. Additionally, employers may not inquire about records that have been expunged or erased by pardon.

Certain sensitive positions, such as law enforcement and homeland security, are exempt as they may not be held by individuals with convictions or arrests. The law does apply to both public and private employers with 15 or more employees. The law goes into effect on March 1, 2015.

The law does not provide any private cause of action against an employer who fails to follow the new law, however, an applicant may file an administrative complaint. Civil penalties against companies can range from 1,000 dollars for a first violation to up to 10,000 dollars.

NJ Employment Discrimination Attorneys

If you think you have been unfairly discriminated against based on your criminal background, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The law firm of John J. Zidziunas & Associates has a team of NJ employment discrimination attorneys to review your case. For further information, call 973-509-8500, email, or visit

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from