A new bill that would limit employers in the State of New Jersey from asking potential job applicants about their criminal history has been recently making waves throughout the state. The bill has been dubbed the “New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act,” and several grassroots campaigns and college students have been rallying for its passage.
Proponents of the legislation believe that this bill could finally put an end to what they consider a “life-sentence of unemployment” for criminal convictions. Advocates have cited studies revealing that many businesses will toss out a potential employee’s application on the spot if he checked the box indicating that he has a prior criminal arrest or conviction.
However, if the NJOCA passes, this check-box will no longer be allowed on application materials and the only time an employer will be able to ask about a criminal record or prior arrests will be after a conditional offer is officially extended. Supporters of the bill believe that it will give individuals who made mistakes in their past a genuine opportunity to have a fair shake in the job market and get their life back on track.
State lawmakers in favor of the bill agree that it will give people an opportunity to show employers the skills that they can bring to the table before being written off for their past indiscretions. Additionally, Senator Raymond Lesniak believes that the billhas the ability to lower the recidivism rate. He explained, “An ex-offender who has had doors slammed in his face won’t be an ex-offender for long—he’ll be a repeat offender.” However, if the ex-offender is given a fair chance, he will have less incentive to commit additional crimes.
Opponents of the bill argue that the removal of the check-box from job applications will not automatically lead to the result that supporters think it will. According to their reasoning, if a company does not want to hire a person who has a criminal history, then one who has a record will still end up jobless even if he gets an interview and is given a conditional offer. In this sense, the bill only prolongs his ultimate rejection. Dissenters also argue that employers should be allowed to know about a potential employee’s criminal record up front, before going through all of the time-consuming steps leading up to the making of a conditional offer.
This hotly contested issue will soon be playing itself out live on the steps of the Statehouse as proponents from all over the state plan to rally in favor of bill.