New Penn State University Background Check Policy Calls for Criminal History and Child Abuse Record Checks

A new background check policy at Penn State University (PSU) that took effect July 5, 2012 – HR99, “Background Check Process” – requires final job candidates and third-party employees who are offered employment to undergo a criminal background check that includes a criminal history check and child abuse record check before approval, according to a report on the Penn State Live website, the university’s official news source. The new PSU background check policy is available at http://guru.psu.edu/policies/OHR/hr99.html.

“To provide the safest possible environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors it is imperative that Penn State implements consistent and thorough background check procedures,” Susan Basso, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, stated in the Penn State Live report. “This policy will help the University make sound hiring decisions and also will help minimize risk for the University.”

The new HR99 policy combines three of the University’s prior policies – HR69, HR95, and HR96 – and will cover academic and nonacademic positions, unpaid positions, and third-party employees. The policy also incorporates a more comprehensive procedure that ensures compliance with recently issued U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines on background checks and confirms Penn State’s responsibilities under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that regulates background checks.

As stated in the ‘Purpose’ section of HR99: “Background checks will be used solely to evaluate candidates’ eligibility to be engaged in any work capacity by the University, and will not be used to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, gender, disability or handicap, age, veteran’s status, gender identity or sexual orientation. Criminal convictions will be reviewed with respect to the nature and gravity of the offense(s); time since conviction; completion of sentence or any other remediation; relevance to the position for which the candidate is being considered/employee is performing; and discrepancies between the background check and what the candidate/employee self-reported. When a finding adversely impacts eligibility to be engaged by the University in a specific position, the candidate will be notified of the decision and given associated information required by law.”

Those people covered by HR99 include “any individual engaged by Penn State in any work capacity beginning on or after the date of this policy including, but not limited to, the following positions”:

  • Staff
  • Faculty (including Adjunct Faculty)
  • Technical Service
  • Temporary Employees not sponsored by a staffing agency (wage payroll)
  • Administrators and Academic Administrators
  • Executives
  • Volunteers (if working with minors)
  • Graduate Assistants
  • Graduate and undergraduate student employees
  • Work study students
  • Interns (paid or unpaid)
  • Third-party employees such as consultants, contractors and temporary staffing agency employees
  • Any individual not previously described who is either paid directly by the University or who is working in a sensitive/critical position such as auditors, registrars, IT, HR, and payroll staffs, as well as positions with access to all offices/facilities and positions with responsibility for controlled substances or hazardous materials.

HR99 also calls for additional verifications to be conducted based on job responsibilities that include motor vehicle records for individuals driving University vehicles, educational and license credentials, employment history, and credit checks consistent with the FCRA for people in sensitive/critical positions with access to financial resources or cash-handling responsibilities.

The existence of a criminal conviction will not automatically disqualify employees or job seekers. According to HR99: “Criminal convictions will be reviewed with respect to the nature and gravity of the offense(s); time since conviction; completion of sentence or any other remediation; relevance to the position for which the candidate is being considered/employee is performing; and discrepancies between the background check and what the candidate/employee self-reported.”

“The updated background check policy reflects best practice and is part of a comprehensive program of due diligence and proactive safety measures,” Basso said in the Penn State Live story. “By consistent implementation of the policy, we’ll ensure a safer environment for all of Penn State’s employees, students and visitors.”

As reported earlier on the ESR News blog, Jerry Sandusky, ex-football coach and longtime assistant to former PSU head coach Joe Paterno, was accused of molesting boys and using the charity that he founded for underprivileged youth, ‘The Second Mile,’ to find the alleged victims of his sex abuse crimes. Sandusky was recently found guilty on 45 of 48 sex abuse counts.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.esrcheck.com/, call ESR at 415.898.0044, or email customerservice@esrcheck.com.

Sources:
http://live.psu.edu/story/60286
http://guru.psu.edu/policies/OHR/hr99.html
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2011/11/22/penn-state-scandal-shows-why-charities-should-background-check-members-with-access-to-vulnerable-populations/
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/sports/ncaafootball/jerry-sandusky-convicted-of-sexually-abusing-boys.html?pagewanted=all

 About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percentage of screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474 (Toll Free), or email customerservice@esrcheck.com.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com.