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Lawmaker: Criminal conviction should not limit employment

New legislation proposed by New Jersey lawmakers would limit employers' ability to inquire about the criminal histories of job applicants. The new measure, known as the Opportunity to Compete Act, would improve civil rights protections for those who may have been convicted of traffic violations, domestic violence and a variety of other criminal allegations. In other words, those who have criminal histories would be able to find and keep jobs faster and easier than they have in the past.

The lawmaker who is proposing the measure says that he is constantly approached by individuals who are willing to work, but they are eliminated simply because of one criminal mistake in their past. The bill would solve that problem by barring employers from conducting criminal checks on job applicants during various phases of the employment process. The pre-application and application processes would both be protected from background screening. An application is officially considered complete when the employer offers a conditional employment opportunity.

Further protections for employees would include mandatory written notification about criminal background checks; applicants would have the opportunity to consent to the inquiry, as well. A "Notice of Rights" would also be provided to job candidates, allowing them to understand more about their individual employment protections. Only specific serious criminal convictions may be considered as determining factors in employment. Those include certain sex offenses, robbery, terrorism, weapons charges and aggravated assault, among others.

Ultimately, the bill will prevent those with criminal convictions from suffering the long-term consequences of misdemeanors and other similar minor crimes. A variety of specific rules and regulations would be included in this bill to limit the time period for consideration of certain offenses. Those who have mounted criminal defenses against charges in the past may now be able to seek employment where they would have otherwise gone without work, a positive change for everyone involved.

Source: NJToday.net, "“Opportunity To Compete Act” Would Limit Employers’ Ability To Consider Job Seekers’ Criminal History" No author given, Dec. 16, 2013

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