Trenton, NJ: On Thursday, June 5, 2014, the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved NJ Assembly Bill A-1999, the “Opportunity to Compete Act” bill, otherwise known as the “Ban the Box” bill. Introduced and co-sponsored by state Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), the bill would prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s past arrest history or criminal record until later in the job application process. (see Prior Post for more information on this bill).
In a statement following the vote, one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Sandra Cunningham noted, “People who make mistakes should not face a lifetime of economic hardship, We need to make sure that we do all we can to assist people with conviction histories to reintegrate into the community so they can provide for their families and themselves. This bill gives applicants with a blemish on their record the opportunity to make a real impression and not have their applications discarded because they checked a box.”
The bill still gives employers the option to withdraw an offer of employment upon learning of an applicant’s criminal history, however, in some circumstances, the employer may be required to provide the reasons for withdrawing the offer, reasons which must relate to the nature of the offense, and the requirements or responsibilities of the job.
Though some business leaders, like the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, oppose the bill, others have embraced it. Senator Cunningham has noted that this practice has already been mandated in many communities in New Jersey and around the country, including Newark, where it has had no adverse impact on business. And the practice, she notes, is consistent with that of the US Government, which doesn’t inquire about criminal histories until much later in the job application process.
Individuals interested in supporting the “Opportunity to Compete Act” can sign a petition asking the Legislature and the Governor to approve and sign the bill into law, by clicking here.
James Krivacska, Psy.D.