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Understanding New Jersey's Various Ban the Box Laws

Attorney Scott Paler, Employment Law Chair, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.

Co-Chair Of NAPBS Litigation Avoidance Sub-Committee

In August 2014, New Jersey joined the growing number of jurisdictions "banning the criminal history box" on job applications.  Under "The Opportunity to Compete Act," which will become effective March 1, 2015, employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history during the "initial employment application process." Employers must wait to request any criminal history information about an applicant until after the first interview is completed.

This is not, however, the first regulation of its kind in New Jersey. The city of Newark previously enacted a "ban the box" ordinance on November 18, 2012.  The Newark ordinance not only limits the gathering and use of criminal history information in the employment context (like the aforementioned state law), but also imposes similar restrictions in the context of housing and licensing applications. Many informed observers have questioned how these laws will intersect.  Will the New Jersey state law preempt Newark's "ban the box" ordinance?  The answer appears to be partially, but not completely.

The New Jersey Act explicitly preempts the enforcement of local "ban the box" ordinances in the employment context.  Therefore, after March 1, 2015, the New Jersey Act will provide the controlling authority as to the gathering and use of criminal history information in the employment context.  However, the Act does not say it preempts "ban the box" ordinances  in the context of housing and licensing decisions, and a court is unlikely to view this omission as a mere accident.  Therefore, the Newark ordinance's "ban the box" constraints in housing and licensing will likely remain good law after March 1, 2015.


Senator pushes for tougher teacher background checks

Published 8:31 PM EST Dec 19, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. —U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is pushing for legislation that would require tougher background checks on teachers to keep sexual predators out of schools.

Video: Watch Porcha Johnson's report

Over 440 teachers have been arrested across America for sexually abusing children according to Toomey, which is why he says teachers and employees need extensive background checks.

Toomey said Pennsylvania is one of the top states in the country with school employees who have been arrested for sexual crimes against students and for Toomey that raises questions.

To get sexual predators out of schools Toomey wants to make sure background checks are at the state and federal levels and that those employees undergo periodic reviews.

“It would be illegal to hire someone who has been convicted of sexually abusing a child,” Toomey said. “I think that’s a minimum threshold we should have in place.”

The senator's bill also bans schools from “passing the trash,” a practice which allows a school to let a child molester resign quietly.

“It’s appalling, but what they often do is write a letter of recommendation so that teacher can get a job somewhere else and be someone else problem,” Toomey said.

The problem that Toomey is running into is getting his colleagues to pass the bill. It has passed unanimously in the house, but Toomey said it was blocked by a few senators.

Toomey said he will be reintroducing the bill in the next few weeks.

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