Convicted criminals will soon have a fairer shot at employment in New Jersey once they've served their time.

Job fair event (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

A measure signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on August 11 will prohibit certain employers from inquiring about a job applicant's criminal history in the initial application. That conversation will have to wait until after the first interview.

The law applies to employers with 15 or more workers, and there are exceptions for certain positions such as law enforcement, the judiciary and emergency management.

"It's just giving people that opportunity to get in front of an employer without having the door slammed in their face," said Alexa Miller, an associate with labor law firm Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill. "There's a big difference between someone that made a mistake when they were young and dumb 10 years ago, versus someone that was convicted of a Megan's Law violation that wants to work at your daycare."

Miller said employers who don't follow the new rule can face hefty fines, so work should be underway to make sure future applications no longer feature "the box" for applicants to check.

The law also changes the way employers solicit job seekers. Published job advertisements can not state that applicants with a criminal record won't be considered.

"It's very important for employers to understand that the new law doesn't prevent employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history," Miller added. "It just delays when the inquiry can occur."

If a job applicant, though, voluntarily discloses information about their criminal history before the end of the first interview, that opens the door for employers to continue the conversation.

The new law will go into effect on March 1, 2015.


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