Three Democratic New Jersey state senators have introduced a bill called “New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act,” which seeks to eliminate disclosure of criminal history on job applications. Supporters of the bill contend that criminal background checks have a disproportionate impact on minority communities.
Said one senator: “One in four Americans has a criminal record that could show up in a routine background check. With the increased usage of these checks, qualified applicants — many of whom have already paid the price for their past infractions — cannot even get their foot in the door to be considered for jobs.”
Laws which limit criminal background checks are already on the books is many states, such as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, as well more than 40 cities and counties, such as Atlantic City and Newark.
The proposed law would eliminate the “check box” on employment applications (hence the bill’s nickname “ban the box”) that would require job applicants to note their criminal history. The bill’s authors claim that employers often throw out applications with checked boxes.
However, the bill provides that employers may still consider serious violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder, arson, terrorism and sex offenses that require registry, and may ask about criminal history after a conditional offer is made. There are several other provisions which permit consideration by employers of criminal backgrounds. The bill also provides certain safeguards for applicants who are denied employment, such as appeal and the right to challenge the accuracy of their criminal history.