The New Jersey Legislature recently introduced the Opportunity to Compete Act that would impose significant restrictions on criminal background checks in connection with the hiring process. The law would prohibit employers from making inquiries into a candidate’s criminal history during the application process and would restrict inquiries concerning a candidate’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment is made. Even then, the employer would have to provide a standard written notification of rights to the candidate’s consent to do so.
Substantively, the Act outlines what types of criminal history could be considered. Employers would not be permitted to consider: non-pending arrests that did not result in a conviction; any record that has been erased, expunged, or pardoned; and any adjudication of delinquency of a juvenile. Finally, employers would be required to consider: information concerning rehabilitation; information concerning the accuracy of the criminal record produced by the candidate; the amount of time since the conviction; and the relationship of the crime to the position sought. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights would be charged with enforcement of the Act.