New Jersey plans to ban criminal 'check box' on job applications

last week by New Jersey state Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Ray Lesniak would end what they described as a “discriminatory practice” against ex-offenders. The NJ Senators would like to introduce legislation to ‘ban the box’. The ‘box’, which appears on virtually all job applications, asks whether the applicant has a criminal history. Having to check that box, most agree often makes it impossible for the applicant to even get an interview for a job. Throughout 2012, several states introduced legislation to ban the box, including Michigan, who claimed that “employers may check an applicant’s criminal record only if the job duties in question may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.” “Across the state (NJ), law-abiding ex-offenders are finding that their past mistakes serve as a barrier to employment in this already tough economy,” Cunningham (D-Hudson) said in a statement. “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.” The city of Newark, as well as Atlantic City, already have “ban the box” laws affecting hiring within those communities. The proposed legislation, the Opportunity to Compete Act, would take that law statewide. The ‘box’ has been a big part of pre-employment screening over the years, and provided a useful indication to employers as to the best hiring decisions for open vacancies. Whether the legislation passes or not, it’s imperative that NJ maintains some form of employment screening to protect businesses from risk. While the Senators make an important point relating to providing second chances to citizens, rectifying this cannot come at the expense of innocent parties.  ]]>

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