On December 20, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a new bill amending the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act (“OTCA”) that went into effect in March 2015.  The amendment seeks to strengthen the “ban the box” legislation by adding express prohibitions as to expunged criminal records and providing clarity to the types of job applications at issue in the OTCA. It becomes effective immediately.

Under the amendment – Senate Bill 3306 – covered employers are barred from seeking information about the current and expunged criminal records of applicants during the early stages of the employment application process.  In addition to barring employers from making oral or written inquiries, the amendment also bars employers from doing online searches for an applicant’s criminal record or expunged criminal record.

The OTCA applies to employers with fifteen or more employees over twenty calendar weeks who do business, employ persons, or take applications for employment within New Jersey.  Those employers may ask about criminal records and any expungements after the initial employment application process, such as after the interview.  While New Jersey law does not prohibit employers from refusing to hire an individual because of his or her criminal history, under Senate Bill 3306, employers may not refuse to hire an applicant because of a criminal record that has been expunged or erased through executive pardon, unless the refusal is consistent with other applicable laws, rules and regulations.

Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor related legislative developments concerning employment background screening and employee hiring.