Generally speaking, under New Jersey’s “Opportunity To Compete Act” (also known as the “ban the box law”), an employer cannot inquire about an employee’s criminal history during an initial interview with an applicant. The Act, which went into effect on March 1, 2015, applies to employers with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks.

Specifically, the Act prohibits employers from making any oral or written inquiries into the applicant’s criminal history background during the “initial employment application process.” In other words, an employer cannot ask an applicant about their criminal history until after an initial interview takes place.

However, an employer may make inquiries about an applicant’s criminal history if the applicant voluntarily discloses his or her criminal history. Certain types of employment are not covered under the Act, such as employment in law enforcement, corrections, emergency management, the judiciary and homeland security.

Please note that the Act does not create a civil cause of action if there is a violation. Therefore, employees cannot sue for violations of the Act. However, the New Jersey Department of Labor may impose penalties on an employer for violations of the Act.