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Employers Beware…Have You “Banned the Box”?

Apr 1, 2015 | Written by: Deborah B. Rosenthal, Esq. |

As of March 1, 2015, all public and private employers that have 15 or more employees are now prohibited from asking a job applicant about his or her criminal record until after the first job interview, unless the applicant voluntarily discloses such information. Governor Christie signed the   “Opportunity to Compete Act” last year, but the Act’s requirements did not begin until March 1 of this year.

If your company’s advertised job postings state that persons who have been arrested or convicted of a crime will not be considered for employment, you should consider modifying those advertisements. Also, any employment application form that asks applicants to disclose their criminal history before or during the applicant’s initial interview will need to be modified. Like most laws, there are some exceptions to these prohibitions. For instance, you may request criminal history information before the initial interview for applicants seeking employment in positions that require criminal background checks by law or regulation (such as bankers, law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security, or emergency management).

Bear in mind that this new law does not prohibit an employer from ever obtaining information regarding an applicant’s criminal history. After the initial interview, an employer may ask about a prospective employee’s criminal record. The employer may even deny an offer of employment based upon an applicant’s criminal record. However, these inquiries cannot be made prior to or at the initial interview.

It is important for all employers to understand the restrictions under the Opportunity to Compete Act, because there are significant monetary penalties for violating the Act. To learn more about “Ban the Box” and what your company needs to do to comply with this law, contact Deborah B. Rosenthal, Esq. at Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC. She can help you review your current employment applications and interview protocols to ensure that your company is not violating this or other important employment laws.