As of yesterday, the ‘Opportunity to Compete Act’ is officially law in New Jersey.

The law states that no place of employment with 15 or more employees can have - on an initial job application - a box asking the candidate whether or not they’ve been convicted of a crime.

Only after the candidate has had an initial interview and gone through a background check could an employer then decide to turn him or her down – depending on the severity of the crime.

Governor Christie originally signed it into law back in August – with the expressed purpose of giving a job applicant who may have had a conviction on his record a chance to get back on his feet – instead of having his application tossed in the garbage like so many others may have been in the past.

Some positions will be exempt from the law such as

...law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security and emergency management positions, and positions which by law, rule, or regulation may not be held by individuals with convictions or arrests.

In addition, an employer may be exempt where a law, rule, or regulation restricts an employer’s ability to engage in specified business activities based on the criminal records of its employees.

One of the main bones of contention anytime this has come up was that the law would limit the ability of the employer to decide right then and there whether or not a candidate would be a good fit.

Ordinarily I'd agree. But on an initial application, a candidate could always lie. And I'd imagine that most, if not all prospective employers conduct background checks on candidates they feel would be right for a job..

It would be then that the employer would be able to decide whether or not the candidate is qualified.

Hence “opportunity to compete!”

Without it, what would it take for someone who may have a conviction on their record to return to doing what may have gotten them in trouble in the first place?

If it’s a step to getting someone on the right track in life and reduces the prison population at the same time – what’s the harm?

Do you support the ‘Ban the Box’ law in New Jersey?