On August 11, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Opportunity to Compete Act, making New Jersey among a number of other states, cities, and municipalities in banning or limiting the use of a criminal background check in the hiring process. Specifically, the Opportunity to Compete Act prohibits private and public employers from (1) stating in job advertisements that applicants with a criminal history will not be considered; and (2) asking an applicant about his or her criminal history during the initial stages of hiring. However, after the first interview has been conducted, the employer is free to ask the applicant about his or her criminal history. The law also does not prohibit employers from conducting a criminal background check on an applicant. In sum, the law intends to limit initial consideration of a job applicant because of his or her criminal background.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also endorses hiring policies that focus on an applicant’s merit rather than an old or unrelated conviction. In this respect, the EEOC recommends to all public and private employers that as a best practice, employers should not “ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.” Therefore, it is imperative for all employers to align their hiring policies and practices with applicable federal, state, and municipal law.
McMahon Berger employs over 20 St. Louis Labor Law Attorneys and routinely assists nation-wide companies in drafting or revising their hiring policies and job applicants. In the past five years, McMahon Berger has twice assisted employers in amicably resolving EEOC complaints addressing this specific issue. If interested in drafting or revising a hiring policy or application for your job applicants, contact our St. Louis Employment Law Firm at 314-567-7350.