On Thursday, April 24th, at a New Jersey Faith Leaders Press Conference at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, in Somerset, NJ, Senator Sandra Cunningham described the key provisions of NJ Assembly Bill A1999, the “Ban the box” bill, which she co-sponsored. She explained bill would ban employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s prior arrest or conviction history until after the employer decides to make an offer of conditional employment to the prospective employer. The bill would not ban consideration on an ex-offender’s criminal history, but does move the inquiry to later in the job seeking process, giving the applicant a chance to present him/herself, accomplishments, skills, and appropriateness for the job before having to answer for what might be decades old criminal history records. Many employers don’t even bother further reviewing job applicants or calling them in for an interview, if they see the individual has a criminal history (even without knowing the nature of that history or how distant it might be).
Moreover, the bill requires that if an employer retracts an offer of conditional employment upon learning of the applicant’s criminal history, the employer must justify the retraction by identifying how the criminal history would negative impact on the applicant’s ability to do the job or poses an identifiable risk to the employer. The bill automatically exempts employers from this burden in cases where the applicant is barred from the type of job offered by law or other legal restriction (e.g., by parole).
The bill also makes it illegal for an employer to deny an otherwise qualified applicant a job to which the employer has made a conditional offer of employment, if the applicant has been law abiding, with no criminal record, for the past 10 years, and if the prior history does not include violent crimes, sex offenses, arson, and certain other offenses.
The bill exempts the employer from any private cause of action for violating this law, but does create civil penalties for violating it. Employers also receive indemnity from any harmful acts commited by an ex-offender hired under the provisions of this act.
Certain categories of employment, such as law enforcement, youth serving organizations, etc. are exempt from the law.
the purpose of the law is to give people with criminal records a chance to compete for jobs, and present themselves to prospective employers, and, if offered a job and then asked about a criminal history, gives the applicant a chance to explain the circumstances, and demonstrate why they have been rehabilitated.
This bill is facing some threat by Republicans in the NJ legislature, even though it was developed in close concert with the business community.
More detail about the bill and event can be found at the Star Ledger Newspaper website:http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/04/bill_to_ban_employers_from_asking_about_applicants_criminal_histories_gets_new_life.html
If you are a New Jersey resident, please consider supporting this legislation by signing a petition to be sent to NJ state legislators and the Governor. The petition can be found at: http://bit.ly/OpportunityToCompete . Also consider contacting your local legislators directly. This is an important starting point for helping ex-offenders get back on their feet.
The sponsor of a bill that would not only ban the box but restrict businesses from asking about applicants’ criminal histories until late in the hiring process said today that she is optimistic it will be passed by both houses of the Legislature…