NJ Opportunity to Compete Act Affects Job Applications

opportunity to compete actOn March 1, 2015 New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act (the “Act”) will take effect. In essence the law restricts employers with 15 or more employees from inquiring, either verbally or in writing (e.g. employment application) about a potential employee’s criminal record. However, this restriction applies only during the initial employment application process (“IEAP”).

The Act defines IEAP as follows: “the period beginning when an applicant for employment first makes an inquiry to an employer about a prospective employment position or job vacancy or when an employer first makes an inquiry to an applicant for employment about a prospective employment position or job vacancy, and ending when an employer has conducted a first interview, whether in person or by any other means, of an applicant for employment”.

Once the IEAP is completed the employer is then permitted to make inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal record including requiring an applicant for employment to complete an employment application that does make inquiries regarding the applicant’s criminal record. However, if this approach is taken the IEAP must be completed and time should be afforded to review the IEAP before providing the applicant with an application that contains inquires about the applicant’s criminal history/record.

An employer is not precluded from refusing to hire an applicant for employment based upon the applicant’s criminal record, unless the criminal record or the relevant portion thereof has been expunged or erased through executive pardon.

Any Employer who violates the Act is liable for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000.00 for a first violation, $5,000.00 for a second violation, and $10,000.00 for each subsequent violation.


Robert H. Williams, EsqMr. Williams is a shareholder in the firm and earned his J.D. degree at Duquesne University School of Law. He earned his LL.M. in Taxation from Temple University. One of Mr. Williams’ areas of expertise involves employee contracts and employee related issues.  For more information or to contact Mr. Williams, please click here.