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New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discuss the "Ban the Box" Bill

Governor Chris Christie signed the "Opportunity to Compete Act" into law on August 11, 2014, also known as the "Ban the Box" law. This new law will no longer allow employers to ask applicants to check a box saying whether they have been convicted of a crime. This is a needed fix to a "silent" problem which has long existed, but which has gone unaddressed because the victims are ex-cons, a constituency most people don't much care about.

So often, the minute an employer sees the box "convicted of a crime" checked, the applicant is out of luck, no matter their other qualities, no matter their earnestness. The new law prevents the employer from making this initial "cut" in the application form process. Yet there are limitations to the law. Employers are only barred from asking during the initial application process whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime. That means that background checks can still occur after the initial process. Past criminal histories can still be a determining factor as to whether or not an individual will be considered for a position by an employer but at least those individuals will be initially considered if qualified for that position. And if an employer violates the law, there's no lawsuit which can be filed by a victim discriminated against in this fashion. It's a law without teeth, but at least there's gums.

So many individuals once convicted of a crime have difficulty getting employment because of their past experiences. They have a record. A record that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It doesn't matter if they learned from their past mistakes, and it doesn't matter if they were convicted of a crime 5, 10 or 15 years ago; they still have a record. So the problem that many ex-convicts have is getting employment after they have been convicted of a crime. Who'd want to hire an ex-convict? Not many people.

And you all get why this is bad, right? I mean, even if you don't care if anyone who's done their time deserves a restoration to their American Dream, don't you want those folks employed? Or would you rather that, failing to get a job, they return to crime? And don't pay taxes? And drain the public till? See how smart this law is? It's a good thing. Should be tougher, but that can come later.

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