New Jersey Bill Would Aid Ex-Offenders in Finding Employment

If you have been convicted of a crime, you know that it can have serious repercussions. You may also know that the consequences of a conviction can continue to punish ex-offenders even long after the fines have been paid and the jail sentence has been served.

One of the ways that a conviction can make life more difficult is finding a job. Very often, ex-offenders are denied employment opportunities, even though they may be highly qualified for the position, as the many employers require applicants to disclose whether they have had a criminal conviction on their job application. For many ex-offenders, indicating that they have been convicted by checking the "yes" box can mean that their employment application is automatically rejected, without the chance to elaborate further at a job interview.

In order to give certain ex-offenders a fair chance at employment, the New Jersey Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit employers from asking about their applicants' criminal records. This legislation is nicknamed "ban the box."

About the legislation

If passed, the legislation would apply to all New Jersey employers with at least 15 employees. The bill would prohibit employers from conducting a criminal background check (or asking about criminal history) during the interview process. Such a background check could only occur if the applicant was judged as qualified and given a conditional offer of employment.

The bill would not prohibit employers from basing their hiring decisions on the criminal history of the applicant. However, the bill would set limits on whether a conviction could be factored into the decision-making process. Except for serious crimes like murder, the conviction would have to have occurred within the prior 10 years in order for it to qualify as a factor for rejecting an applicant. In addition, convictions for disorderly persons offenses (e.g. minor drug crimes, petty theft and other minor offenses) would have had to occur within the prior five years to be used to deny the applicant employment.

An attorney can help

Although opposed by business interests, proponents of the legislation say that the bill would allow ex-offenders to be considered on their skills and merits, rather than a past indiscretion, leading to decreased recidivism rates. So far, the bills supporters have been able to push the bill through the legislative process. The bill recently was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee and will be sent for a vote by the full Assembly.

If you have been charged with the crime, you can face a lifetime of negative repercussions, as evidenced by this bill. As a result, it is important to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can work to mount an effective defense to protect your future best interests.