New Jersey’s ‘Ban the Box’ law prohibits asking about applicants’ criminal history

A New Jersey law passed last year makes it somewhat easier for people with criminal records to gain employment in the state.

A recent report from the National Employment Law Practice, an organization advocating the rights of unemployed and underemployed workers nationwide, argues for a federal "ban the box" effort to make it easier for individuals with criminal records to obtain employment with federal agencies and contractors.

According to statistics in the NELP's report, nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. have a criminal record that will show up on standard criminal background checks, creating enormous challenges for individuals who are trying to turn their lives around and find gainful employment. Ban the box legislation, which has passed in New Jersey and several other states, removes the box on many job applications asking candidates if they have a criminal record. These laws also typically move background checks to later on in the hiring process, allowing applicants a better chance at landing a job despite a criminal past.

In its report, the NELP notes how quickly this type of legislation is spreading throughout the nation, with 13 states, the District of Columbia and nearly 100 city and county governments adopting ban the box measures. Some major corporations have followed suit, including retailers like Home Depot, Target and Wal-Mart.

Now, the organization argues, it is time for the federal government to adopt a ban the box initiative of its own, making the federal hiring process fairer to qualified professionals who happen to have criminal records.

Ban the Box in New Jersey

New Jersey's version of ban the box legislation, known as the Opportunity to Compete Act, passed and was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in August 2014. According to NJ Advance, the law restricts some companies' ability to inquire about job candidates' criminal backgrounds, along with eliminating the box on applications requiring individuals to disclose previous criminal convictions.

New Jersey state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, one of the bill's sponsors, says that removing this box helps alleviate a major hurdle for many job candidates, as those who were forced to check it often found that their chances of landing a position ended there. Supporters argue that the Opportunity to Compete Act will help both applicants and business owners alike, although the state Chamber of Commerce declined to take a position on the issue.

The ban the box measure in New Jersey is helping more individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system obtain employment and avoid the discrimination that often occurred in the past during the hiring process. However, people with criminal records still face many hurdles. If you have been arrested, it's important to seek the guidance of a skilled Hackensack criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Keywords: New Jersey, criminal record