On March 1, 2015, New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act went into effect, making it the sixth state to prohibit employers from requiring a criminal background check during the first stages of the hiring process.
The effort to outlaw the practice, popularly known as the “ban the box” campaign, applies to all employers with 15 or more employees and threatens fines of up to $10,000 for repeat violations. “Ban the box,” which is a reference to the “criminal history” checkbox on many traditional job applications, is an attempt to curb hiring discrimination and make it easier for former prisoners and those with criminal records to reintegrate into society through gainful employment.
Advocates for the law cite the United States’ record high incarceration rate, alongside the fact that as many as 80 percent of inmates are incarcerated for drug-related offenses as a result of a War on Drugs many see as failed.
State Senator and proponent of the Opportunity to Compete Act Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), said that the measure is, “not about hand-outs or giveaways, but rather responsibility. The text of the legislation is summed in a phrase: competing, win or lose, on your own merits.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance in New Jersey,” said Republican governor Chris Christie when he signed the bill into law.
Of course, not everyone is pleased about the law. Many Republicans see it as a restriction on employers’ freedom to make informed hiring decisions, and a costly administrative burden.
“At a time when government is increasing the minimum wage and creating a confusing, unworkable and costly healthcare system under Obamacare, the last thing businesses need is more onerous regulations,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Parker Space, a member of the Assembly Labor Committee.
The law is part of a sweeping trend of reforms in the country and New Jersey, including the bail reform measure that was signed into law by Gov. Christie last year, and Senator Cory Booker’s national campaign to repeal what he sees as the worst aspects of the War on Drugs.
Whatever the criminal justice system ends up looking like, if you end up on the wrong side of the law in New Jersey, call Chance BailBonds to get help and get home fast.