Hiring Your Rock Star

By Stefanie Riehl, NJBIA Vice President of Business Resources

You can make an informed decision about what to eat for breakfast a lot easier than who you should hire for a critical job at your company. If you’re like most employers, a resume, a couple of hour-long conversations and some references are all you get.  Not surprisingly, before extending an offer to a candidate who seems like a rock star, you may want more information just to be sure.

NJBIA often gets calls (1-800-499-4419, ext. 3) and e-mails ([email protected]) through our Member Action Center on employee background checks. Below we summarize some common questions.

Does New Jersey prohibit employers from considering criminal history?

New Jersey’s “Opportunity to Compete law” requires employers with 15 or more employees to wait until after a first interview to ask about a job applicant’s criminal history. The interview can be in person or “by any other means” such as over the telephone. There are some exemptions— employers who serve vulnerable populations like children, for instance.

At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination for employers with 15 or more employees. The EEOC argues that considering arrest and conviction records may be discriminatory unless the information is “job related” and “consistent with business necessity.”

Does New Jersey prohibit employers from making job offers that are dependent on applicants passing drug tests?

No, but employers should proceed with caution. An employer may run into trouble based on who is tested or how the test is conducted. Best practices include using the least intrusive tests necessary; adopting a policy to keep results confidential; informing the applicant about the testing program itself, including who will be tested, how samples will be analyzed, and what consequences there will be for failing or refusing the test; and, providing information about the effects of drug use. (Laws may vary in other states.)

Does New Jersey prohibit employers from considering credit history?

No, although state legislation is under consideration to prohibit the use of credit checks in hiring. Even without such a law, relying on credit history still carries risks. Much like it does with criminal background checks, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes the position that credit checks may be discriminatory unless the information being considered is “job related” and “consistent with business necessity.” Also, employers who purchase credit reports from third-parties (usually the only way to get them) must follow state and federal law on their uses and required notifications for applicants.

Want to dive deeper? Attend our seminar on April 1, 2016 at the Pines Manor in Edison:  Effective Employee Screening or contact us at 1-800-499-4419, ext. 3 or [email protected].

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