Tag Archives: sex offender

Churches Using Background Checks to Ensure Safety of Most Vulnerable Members

By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor

According to a report ‘Churches check closer after molestation cases’ from OnlineAthens.com, the website for the Athens Banner Herald, more churches are using background checks to ensure the safety of their most vulnerable members in the wake of several molestation cases involving employees and volunteers.

The report indicates three youth ministers in Northeast Georgia churches were arrested and charged with molesting minors in their congregations in the past four months.

  • A 33-year-old male Sunday school teacher was arrested on charges of child molestation after allegedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a 14-year-old boy’s phone.
  • A 21-year-old man who claimed to be a youth minister for the church was arrested for child molestation after inviting two teenage boys to a church festival and allegedly molesting one on a nature hike afterwards.
  • A 32-year-old man was arrested on charges of child molestation due to his alleged relationship with a 16-year-old girl who attended the same Church with him.

More churches are taking the time to run background checks on employees and volunteers to make sure their members are safe, especially since the majority of people trust church workers since they find it hard to suspect someone holding a position at a religious institution of wrongdoing, according to the report.

While parents should trust in their churches and other community groups, a police Sergeant working in the special victims unit who was quoted in the story said that parents should remain aware of who their children are with and always need to be on guard since child molesters can come from all walks of life and can be married or single.

Churches, like any organization, need to provide due diligence to ensure a safe workplace for everyone. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – offers background screening solutions for Faith-Based and Volunteer organizations by checking available resources such as sex offender registries, county courts, and utilizing an address information manager as a locater for additional criminal records checks.

Services in the ESR ‘Basic Volunteer Safety 1st Package’ include:

  • Criminal Search of selected criminal court records, state criminal repositories, probation, prison parole, and release files using the ESR proprietary National Multi-Jurisdictional Criminal Database. 
  • Sex Offender Search of the state-maintained registries, noting that each originating agency determines what is to be public information at that time and not all states release registries in their entirety.
  • Residence Address Search for the previous residence addresses of volunteers and employees.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) Search to find if the SSN has been issued and whether other names are associated with the same SSN.

For more information about background screening solutions for volunteer, youth, and faith-based organizations, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/services/Background-Screening-Solutions-Churches-Volunteer-Groups.php.

For a PDF document containing a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Church and Volunteer groups regarding background checks, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/docs/FAQs%20for%20Churches%20&%20Volunteer%20Groups%20%20v01-09.pdf.

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/013011/new_778281504.shtml

CNN and WSJ News Stories Show Background Checks Occur at Intersection of Security and Privacy

By Lester Rosen, ESR President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

Recently, two news stories about background checks from very different angles appeared in two major media outlets – CNN and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – on the same day.

The CNN story – “Investigation: Could background check have prevented alleged rape?” – investigated why British Petroleum (BP) and a company used to hire cleanup workers for the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not perform basic background checks.

According to the CNN story, this lack of background checks for oil cleanup workers led to a sex offender landing a job and then allegedly raping a co-worker. A CNN investigation into the incident revealed that basic background checks were not performed on those hired to remove oil from the beaches in Mississippi.

A County Sheriff in Mississippi told CNN he learned from the head of BP security that no background checks were conducted on the cleanup workers and that he warned the BP official that BP risked the criminal element looking for jobs and they would not know who they were dealing with if they did not do background checks. The Sherriff also said that, if asked, his department would have performed the background checks for free.

The 41-year-old suspect – who faces charges of sexual battery and failure to register as a sex offender – has a criminal history dating back to 1991. He was put on the national sex offender registry for a 1996 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was also on probation after being convicted in 2003 for cruelty to children, CNN reports.

While the CNN story shows the need for background checks for security reasons, a WSJ law blog – “Background Checks in Hiring: Discrimination or Due Diligence?” – asks if employers can disqualify job applicants simply for having a criminal past and finds the answer may not be so clear cut, at least according to a story by the Associated Press (AP).

The AP reports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is arguing that the practice of employers disqualifying applicants with criminal records or bad credit history may be discrimination since those applicants are “disproportionately black or Latino.” The WSJ law blog also quotes the AP story to show that employers using a blanket refusal to hire applicants with criminal records could risk going against federal employment law:

If criminal histories are taken into account, the EEOC says employers must also consider the nature of the job, the seriousness of the offense and how long ago it occurred. For example, it may make sense to disqualify a bank employee with a past conviction for embezzlement, but not necessarily for a DUI.

The AP also reported that the EEOC filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit against a Dallas-based events planning firm in 2009, alleging that the firm “used credit history and criminal records to discriminate against blacks, Hispanics, and males.”

The two news stories read back to back – one in which the failure to do a background check possibly led to a preventable crime, the other questioning if background checks using credit histories and criminal records are discriminatory – could leave employers wondering how much background checking is too much and how much is too little.

These two stories – appearing on the same day from major news organizations but with vastly different angles – underscore the point that background checks occur at the intersection of security and privacy. On the one hand, background checks can promote safety, security, and honesty while lessening the chance for workplace violence or the hiring of unqualified workers with fake credentials. On the other hand, employers using background checks should be concerned with issues of fairness and privacy while combating discrimination.

The solution for employers is reaching the right balance in their background check program.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/08/12/gulf.cleanup.workercharged/
http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/08/12/background-checks-in-hiring-discrimination-or-due-diligence/
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_JOB_SCREENING_ILLEGAL_TACTICS?SITE=ORMED&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2010/03/15/background-check-bashing-either-too-much-or-too-little-depending-upon-the-most-recent-headline/

Tennessee Considers Background Checks for Ice Cream Truck Drivers

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream – but how many people consider the possible criminal backgrounds of the ice cream truck drivers bringing that delicious treat to screaming kids waiting by the side of the road on hot summer days?

Apparently lawmakers in Tennessee do, according to a story in The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, TN, enough to decide to spend the summer studying whether neighborhood ice cream truck drivers in the state should undergo background checks to weed out sex offenders who could prey on children, and how these background checks should be run.

According to the article, a summer study committee will work out matters regarding the proposed legislation such as who should pay for the background checks, who should conduct the background checks, and penalties for violations.

One state representative, a former county sheriff, was quoted in the article as saying that background checks were needed because some of the people on ice cream trucks were pedophiles and driving an ice cream truck was “a great way for them to be around kids.”

Other committee members argued current law already deals with “the threat of sex offenders driving ice cream trucks through neighborhoods while playing nursery rhymes or children’s jingles,” the Commercial Appeal reported, since sex offenders are required to register with local law enforcement officials when they move into a neighborhood.

According to the Commercial Appeal, Tennessee state law states it is a violation for sex offenders to “engage in employment, a profession, occupation or vocation, regardless of whether compensation is received, that the offender knows or should know will cause the offender to be in direct and unsupervised contact with a minor.”

Violation of the law is punishable by nearly one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

For more information on background checks, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.esrcheck.com.

Source:

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/may/04/tennessee-lawmakers-study-background-checks-ice-cr/

CAUSE Shows Background Checks Needed To Uncover Unsafe Service Employees Working In Homes

When a hired worker enters your home to perform a service that you requested, do you know to whom you are opening your door?

So asks an article on HuffingtonPost.com — ‘Could You or a Loved One End Up Like Elizabeth Smart?’ — that shows why background checks are needed to uncover unsafe employees working in and around homes of other people, and how background checks can help people avoid tragedies like the one experienced by Lucia Bone, the founder of ‘Sue Weaver CAUSE’ Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment.’

The article title references the case of Elizabeth Smart, whose father hired a contract day-worker who then later returned to the house to kidnap Elizabeth. The girl survived the ordeal, but Sue Weaver, Lucia Bone’s sister, was not so fortunate even though the worker who entered her home was hired by a large company.

In 2001, according to the article, Weaver was raped and beaten to death in her Florida home. Six months before her death, Weaver had contracted with a major department store to clean the air ducts in her home. Both workers sent to her house had criminal records. One was a twice-convicted sex offender on parole who — like the worker in the Smart case — returned to a home where he had once worked to commit a crime.

Sadly, the article reports Weaver’s murder is not an isolated case, since many consumers are robbed, assaulted, and murdered each year by workers with jobs that allow them access into homes. Because of this, Bone started Sue Weaver CAUSE to both honor her sister and to fight for standardized background checks of all in-home service employees. Through consumer awareness and legislation, Bone wants to ensure that big, reputable retail companies like Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, and others perform thorough criminal background checks on the contractors and sub-contractors they send into homes.

Since there are currently no federal or state laws requiring companies to do criminal background checks on contractors or sub-contract workers sent into homes, Sue Weaver CAUSE is demanding legislation for CAUSE Certification compliance. When interviewed for the article, Bone says the CAUSE Certification would require annual background checks following CAUSE minimum screening standards on all employees, contractors, and subcontractors. Bone adds that these standards were determined from survey results from questions asking background screening professionals what minimum screening should be conducted on workers going into homes of elderly mothers, pregnant wives, and people with special needs.

According to Bone, the minimum requirements for CAUSE Certification are:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) Address Trace;
  • County-Level Criminal Check (Search records for past seven years in counties where applicant lived, worked, or attended school);
  • Multi-jurisdictional/”National” Criminal Database, and;
  • National/State Sex Offender Registry.

In addition, Bone says consumers “never think about (criminal background checks for in-home service workers)” and automatically assume the company they hire would not send criminals into their homes. She advises consumers to be proactive and not assume companies properly screen workers sent to homes. “Bonded and insured is not a background check.”

The Sue Weaver CAUSE website is located at: http://www.sueweavercause.org/.

For more information on background checks, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.esrcheck.com.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janet-kinosian/could-you-or-a-loved-one_b_559526.html

California Case Protects Constitutional Right of Background Screening Firm to Report Sex Offender Registration

A California Court of Appeals decision filed March 23, 2010 held that a background screening firm has a constitutional right to report that an applicant has appeared on the Megan’s Law website (MLW) as a registered sex offender.  The Court further held that under the California law, the prohibition on the use of such information for employment does not apply where there is a person at risk. Continue reading

Due diligence risk management and Employment Screening

In the April, 2009 ESR Newsletter, ESR reported on a case in Ohio where a negligent hiring lawsuit was filed on behalf of a sleep clinic patient that was sexually molested by a staff member.  http://www.esrcheck.com/newsletter/archives/April_2009.php.  The article reported that a technician was facing gross sexual imposition and sexual imposition charges for allegedly molesting five victims.  The lawsuit “accuses the sleep clinic of negligence for hiring (the worker) and failing to properly supervise him.”  

Another sleep clinic case, this time from California is now in the news.  According to a story in the Monterey County Herald, a sleep technician was accused of sexual misconduct and the case eventually resulted in a no contest plea to a battery charge.  The case even lead to a new law in California that regulated workers in sleep clinics and required them to pass background check.  See:  http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_13864096 

These stories demonstrate a fundamental fact of life for employers. In deciding how extensively to perform background screening, employers need to consider the risks involved.  Patients in a medical facility are highly vulnerable and therefore at greater risk. Presumably, patients at a sleep clinic are even more vulnerable since they are there to sleep.

Examples where employers may have an increased duty of care are: 

  • The workers have contact or responsibilities with groups at risk, such as the young, infirmed, or elderly.
  • Jobs such as a security guard, where a person acts under a “color of authority.”  A person who wears a uniform is even a higher risk since a person may assume they have authority and may let their guard down. 
  • Jobs with special responsibilities such as an apartment manager that has the master key to all of the apartments.
  • Jobs where a worker has access to sensitive consumer information, such as credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
  • Jobs where by statute, there is particular sensitivity.  An example can be safety sensitive positions such as workers at nuclear plants.  Sarbanes-Oxley compliance is another area where that may create a higher duty of care.
  • Jobs where workers enter homes, or where other unique risks exist.  A person in their own home can be extremely vulnerable since they are shielded from the public and cannot obtain help easily.  In fact, an organization called the Sue Weaver Cause advocates greater due diligence where workers enter homes.  According to their website:
    “August 27, 2001, Sue Weaver was brutally raped and beaten to death by a twice convicted sex-offender hired to do service work in her home. Sue had contracted with a major department store to have the air ducts in her home cleaned.  (The department store) did not conduct criminal background checks on those workers they sent into their clients’ homes.”   For more information, see:  http://www.sueweavercause.org/  

To review the risk management considerations for your screening program, contact Jared Callahan at 415-898-0044 or e-mail him at jcallahan@esrcheck.com

California Sex Offender Search Employment Screening Background Check

The use of the California Sexual Registration listing, commonly known as Megan’s Law, is widespread among employers.  However, there is a little known provision in California that may actually limit an employer’s legal use of that information in some situations.

The Megan’s Law was first passed in 1996.   Originally, information on sex offenders that register under California Penal Code Section 290 was only available by personally visiting police stations and sheriff’s offices, or by calling a 900 number. The website at  www.meganslaw.ca.gov was established by the California Department of Justice pursuant to a 2004 California law for the purpose of allowing the public for the first time to use their personal computers to view information on sex offenders required to register with local law enforcement under California’s Megan’s Law.

The purpose of Megan’s law is summarized on the web site: 

California’s Megan’s Law provides the public with certain information on the whereabouts of sex offenders so that members of our local communities may protect themselves and their children. Megan’s Law is named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved across the street from the family without their knowledge. In the wake of the tragedy, the Kankas sought to have local communities warned.

The California site allows anyone to search the database by a sex offender’s specific name, obtain ZIP Code and city/county listings, obtain detailed personal profile information on each registrant, and use a map application to search their neighborhood or anywhere throughout the State to determine the specific location of any of those registrants on whom the law allows us to display a home address.

Megan’s law contains a provision which prohibits the information to be used when it comes to insurance, loans, credit, employment, education, housing or accommodation or benefits or privileges provided by any business.

 California Penal Code Section 290.4(d) (2).

However, there is an exception.  According to California law, a  person is authorized to use information disclosed pursuant to this section only to protect a person at risk. California Penal Code Section 290.4(d) (1).

The problem for employers that want to use this information is that there is no legal definition for the term  a “person at risk.”  Neither the California Penal code, the legislative history of the section or the Megan’s law website defines a “person at risk.”  Until a court provides a definition, employers are well advised to apply a common-sense approach by looking at risk factors associated with the nature of the job. For example, there is a widespread industry agreement that vulnerable individuals are at risk, such as the young, the aged, the infirmed, or the physically or mentally disabled. In addition, people inside their own home are likely to be at greater risk, since it is harder to obtain help, so home workers may be considered a population that works with people at risk.  Another category is workers that operate under some sort of badge or color of authority or who wears a uniform.  In that situation, a person may let their guard down.  Until a court makes a clear decision, employers should make an effort to determine if there is a good faith belief that it is reasonably foreseeable that a member of a group at risk could be negatively impacted if a sexual offender was hired.

Of course, if the underlying criminal record is discovered and otherwise meets the many complicated rules governing the reporting and use of criminal records in California, then the  at “risk” analysis may not be needed, and the employer can handle it like any other criminal record.

There are two other challenges for California employers using the Megan’s law website:

First, it is possible that a person may be registered as a sex offender, but their crime is beyond the 7 year California reporting provisions that restrict what a Consumer Reporting Agency can report.  Although not yet tested in the Courts, the industry standard is for a screening firm to report the listing, on the basis that the background firm is reporting on the offender’s current status as a registered sexual offender.

The other issue is that there are large numbers of sex offenders that either do not register or abscond from the jurisdiction(s), or do not re-register.  The Safe Hiring Manual, by ESR President, Lester S. Rosen, reported on studies suggesting a significant number of sex offenders did not have current registration and authorities have lost track of their whereabouts.

The bottom line: Where an employer is hiring an applicant for a position where it is foreseeable that there would be contact with members of groups at risk, then the sexual offender database search can be valuable.  However, employers should keep in mind that there are limitations that have yet to be fully defined by courts or the legislature, and the databases may not be up-to-date or 100% accurate.

Texas Lawsuit Accuses Apartment Owner of Negligence in Hiring Register Sex Offender as Maintenance Worker that Raped 14 Year Old Girl

According to a storey in the Southeastern Texas Record, a lawsuit has been filed against an apartment building owner in the rape of a tenant, a 14 year old girl, by a maintenance worker that was a registered sex offender.  It was alleged that the employee repeatedly sexually assaulted the victim at knifepoint for an unspecified number of hours. The victim apparently went to the offenses apartment for a tattoo.   The offender has been arrested and is now in jail.   

See: http://www.setexasrecord.com/news/219599-apartment-management-knew-of-sex-offender-on-staff-victims-mother-alleges  

According to the story, the plaintiff has alleged  that the apartment owners “ knew or should have known of Juan Lauderdale’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child sexual abuser, and despite such knowledge, negligently retained (Juan) Lauderdale and failed to warn those coming into contact with him, including minor plaintiff and the minor plaintiff’s family, of (Juan) Lauderdale’s propensities.” 

The plaintiff has also alleged that, “ As a direct and proximate result of the sexual assault and the negligent conduct of the defendants, minor plaintiff suffered severe and permanent emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, and other psychological injuries.” The suit says, “These affects are permanent and will abide with the minor plaintiff for her entire life.” 

Keeping in mind that this case is only at the beginning stage, and no factual determinations have been made or any issues litigated, this type of case once again underscores that a higher risk position requires a higher degree of due diligence.  Negligence is essentially a violation of the duty of care, and that duty increase where there is a greater foreseeable risk.   

One of the classic areas where a greater duty of care is needed is apartment buildings where it reasonably foreseeable that great harm can occur if a person with an unsuitable criminal record is entrusted with keys, or has access to tenant under some sort of color of authority.  Based just upon the allegations in the paper, this case may be complicated by an argument that it is not reasonably foreseeable that a worker would entice a young tenant to an apartment, or that such actions were independent of the job duties so that any negligent hiring was not the proximate cause of the injuries.  

These cases can become very complicated depending upon the exact facts that are established through discovery.   Regardless of the final outcome, it does appear that an ounce of prevention can keep this type of situation from occurring the fist place.  

It should be noted that the maintenance worker according to the story was on the sexual offender list due to a sexual offense on young girl in 1996, some 12 years ago.  See the preceding blog about a study that suggests that after a few years, a person is not likely to represent a greater risk then a member of the general population that never offended.

Ohio Case on Negligent Hiring Demonstrates that a Higher Risk Requires Greater Due Diligence

 

According to the April 7, 2009 The Chronicle-Telegram, published in Elyria, Ohio, a negligent hiring lawsuit was filed on behalf of a sleep clinic patient that was sexually molested by a staff member.  The article is at:  http://www.chroniclet.com/2009/04/07/roundup-april-7-2009/

According to the article, the technician is currently facing gross sexual imposition and sexual imposition charges for allegedly molesting five victims. The lawsuit “accuses the sleep clinic of negligence for hiring (the worker) and failing to properly supervise him.” 

The article did not recount the basis for the negligent hiring claim.  However, the case does demonstrate a crucial point about the due diligence and the responsibilities of an employerthe higher the risk, the greater the duty of care. 

Patients in a medical facility are highly vulnerable and therefore at greater risk. Presumably, patients at a sleep clinic are even more vulnerable since they are there to sleep. In deciding how extensively to perform background screening, employers need to consider the risks involved. 

Megan’s Law and Registered Sexual Offenders – An “Only in California” Twist

The use of the California Sexual Registration listing, commo nly known as Megan’s Law, is widespread among employers.  However, there is a little known provision in California that may actually limit an employer’s legal use of that information in some situations.

The Megan’s Law was first passed in 1996.  Originally, information on sex offenders that register under California Penal Code Section 290 was only available by personally visiting police stations and sheriff’s offices, or by calling a 900 number. The website at       www.meganslaw.ca.gov was established by the California Department of Justice pursuant to a 2004 California law for the purpose of allowing ”the public for the first time to use their personal computers to view information on sex offenders required to register with local law enforcement under California’s Megan’s Law. “

The purpose of Megan’s law is summarized on the web site: 

Cali fornia’s Megan’s Law provides the public with certain information on the whereabouts of sex offenders so that members of our local communities may protect themselves and their children. Megan’s Law is named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved across the street from the family without their knowledge. In the wake of the tragedy, the Kankas sought to have local communities warned.

The California site allows anyone to search the database by a sex offender’s specific name, obtain ZIP Code and city/county listings, obtain detailed personal profile information on each registrant, and use a map application to search their neighborhood or anywhere throughout the State to determine the specific location of any of those registrants on whom the law allows us to display a home address.

Megan’s law contains a provision which prohibits the information to be used when it comes to insurance, loans, credit, employment, education, housing or accommodation or benefits or privileges provided by any business.  California Penal Code Section 290.4(d) (2).  

However, there is an exception.  According to California law, “A person is authorized to use information disclosed pursuant to this section only to protect a person at risk.” California Penal Code Section 290.4(d) (1).

The problem for employers that want to use this information:  There is no legal definition for the term “person at risk.”  Neither the California Penal code, the legislative history of the section or the Megan’s law website defines a “person at risk.”

Until a court provides a definition, employers are well advised to apply a common-sense approach by looking at risk factors associated with the nature of the job. For example, there is a widespread industry agreement that vulnerable individuals are at risk, such as the young, the aged, the infirmed, or the physically or mentally disabled. In addition, people inside their own home are likely to be at greater risk, since it is harder to obtain help, so home workers may be considered a population that works with people at risk.  Another category is workers that operate under some sort of badge or color of authority or who wears a uniform.  In that situation, a person may let their guard down.  Until a court makes a clear decision, employers should make an effort to determine if there is a good faith belief that it is reasonably foreseeable that a member of a group at risk could be negatively impacted if a sexual offender was hired.  

Of course, if the underlying criminal record is discovered and otherwise meets the many complicated rules governing the reporting and use of criminal records in California, then the “group at risk” analysis is not needed, and the employer handles it like any other criminal record. 

There are two other challenges for California employers using the Megan’s law website:

First, it is possible that a person may be registered as a sex offender, but their crime is beyond the 7 year California reporting provisions that restrict what a Consumer Reporting Agency can report.  Although not yet tested in the Courts, the industry standard is for a screening firm to report the listing, on the basis that the background firm is reporting on the offender’s current status as a registered sexual offender.

The other issue is that there are large numbers of sex offenders that either do not register or abscond from the jurisdiction(s), or do not re-register.  The Safe Hiring Manual, by ESR President, Lester S. Rosen, reported on studies suggesting a significant number of sex offenders did not have current registration and authorities have lost track of their whereabouts.

The bottom line: Where an employer is hiring an applicant for a position where it is foreseeable that there would be contact with members of groups at risk, then the sexual offender database search can be valuable.  However, employers should keep in mind that there are limitations that have yet to be fully defined by courts or the legislature.