News & Resources

Newark, NJ background check limitations are in effect

Dec 03, 2012 Quinn Thomas

November 18, 2012 saw a new ordinance go into place in the city of Newark, New Jersey, limiting the types of background checks that employers may conduct during the hiring process. Ordinance 12-163 orders that criminal background checks should not be used in determining eligibility for employment except in sectors deemed to be "sensitive." This city ordinance may set a precedent for other local governments to establish laws regarding the use of background screening data. Being that several states have adopted laws requiring electronic verification for workers, this may set the stage for a debate regarding regulations of employment screening between federal, state and city governments. Newark Ordinance 12-163
Newark's ordinance protects individuals right to nondisclosure of past criminal arrests and convictions. The ordinance diverges from New Jersey laws in that it states that employment screenings may only be given after an individual has been offered a position and further details that only individuals in "sufficiently sensitive" positions with a high level of security clearance should be given such screening. It focus particularly on criminal history and makes no requirements for the usage of consumer credit data, debt collection data and other traditional types of employment screening. This ordinance, which applies to all work physically performed in Newark, offers a guideline for institutions to consider when making final employment decisions if criminal background checks are employed. Full disclosure of the reasons for non-hire are required under this ordinance. Fines may be levied ranging from $500 to $1,000 for each offense that violates the new ordinance. Effects
Newark has been considered a high crime city, and 2010 Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows that Newark had a violent crime rate that was more than 154 percent higher than the national average. A variety of sociological factors play a part in this data, and Newark has seen its share of the same problems that have faced American cities when it comes to poverty, drugs and crime. This may reflect the harsh realities of many urban neighborhoods where crime is common. However, it may raise red flags when it comes to evaluating best practices for hiring. Background checks intend to keep all employees safe and also establish an unquestionable trust at work. Newark's ordinance may also spark debate as to regulations detailing collecting criminal history and the usage of commercial credit reports or alternative credit scores for pre-screening and the determining of eligibility for employment.