Starting in March, employers will no longer be able to ask about criminal history during the initial hiring process in New Jersey. That is the result of the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act signed into law by Governor Christie this past August. Employers will still be able to conduct a criminal history check before hiring an employee, but they will have to get beyond the initial application and interview process to do so. Here’s what you need to know so that you can ensure compliance and avoid costly fines. Importantly, the Act applies only to companies with 15 or more employees, and only during the initial employment application process. That includes the time from which a candidate first inquires about a position until after the employer has conducted a first interview, whether in person or by any other means. Employers cannot inquire orally or in writing about criminal history. Employers also are prohibited from including language in any recruitment advertisements or other solicitations for applicants that explicitly provides that the employer will not consider any applicant who has been arrested or convicted of one or more crimes or offenses.