Your new potential hire has just left your office following a final interview. You feel great about their attitude and they appear to have the pedigree of a top candidate. They have all the signs for success: a resume full of great experience, stories about converting tough clients, and the charisma/charm and character you’ve only ever read about in hiring books.
Prior to the NCAA and Big Ten Conference sanctions, board of trustee decisions following the Freeh Report and the release of chilling voicemails left by Jerry Sandusky on a victim’s phone, the looming question of Penn State’s next steps still remain. The image of the university is undoubtedly tarnished after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial revealed university officials sat idle as children were victimized by the former assistant coach to the prestigious football team.
The university is still the subject of a number of investigations and the current president, Rodney Erickson says the university is cooperating fully. [Read more] Following the sanctions levied by the NCAA and Big Ten, credit ratings provider, Moody’s Corporation announced that it may cut the university’s current “Aa1” credit rating. A downgrade from Moody’s could make it more expensive for Penn State to borrow money – the school is already $1 billion in debt. [Read more]
Financial woes aside, the university has already begun taking steps to make a dent in replenishing the image it once had; removing the Joe Paterno statue from campus may not be enough.
Erickson announced earlier this month that the university would adopt a new background check procedure. On July 5, all current and future job candidates (including third-party candidates) must undergo a criminal background check prior to working for the university. HR99 as it’s called incorporates a “more comprehensive procedure that also ensures compliance with recently issued new guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on background checks.”
Associate vice president of Human Resources, Susan Basso, says that “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.”
First Contact HR has always recommended that higher education adhere to EEOC guidelines and adopt a comprehensive background check policy that meets their specific needs. No college or university is the same, yet identity verification, criminal records research, sex offender registry checks, employment and education verification and motor vehicle records review are all recommended services for any potential staff member of an educational institution.
Regarding the effectiveness of background checks, Jerry Sandusky had a criminal background and was even denied a volunteer coaching job in 2010 after Juniata College conducted a background check.
HR Professional Opinion:
Higher education institutions should audit their current practices and conduct an objective risk assessment. Student safety and security should be high priority and never subordinate to other objectives of the institution. Conducting comprehensive background checks that are in compliance with federal, state and local laws are key in protecting the institution’s reputation, hiring and retaining the right talent, while creating a culture that matches the institution’s goals, objectives and vision.
Higher education should evaluate all new hires, volunteers and contractors, considering the following factors against the work to be performed or held, the work performance location, and the degree of risk to the organization:
- Any loyalty or terrorism issue;
- Patterns of conduct (e.g., alcoholism/drug addiction, financial irresponsibility/major liabilities, dishonesty, un-employability for Negligence or misconduct, criminal conduct);
- Felony and misdemeanor offenses;
- Drug manufacturing/trafficking/sale;
- Significant honesty issue (e.g., extortion, armed robbery, embezzlement, perjury);
- Criminal sexual misconduct;
- Serious violent behavior (e.g., rape, aggravated assault, arson, child abuse, manslaughter);
- Illegal use of firearms/explosives; and
- Employment related misconduct involving dishonesty, policy violations, criminal or violent behavior.
Further, prior to taking any adverse action against any subject, First Contact HR recommends consideration of the following:
- The nature, extent and seriousness of the conduct;
- The circumstances surrounding the conduct;
- The frequency of the conduct;
- How recently the conduct occurred;
- The individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct;
- The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other pertinent behavior changes;
- The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress;
- The likelihood of continuation of the conduct;
- How, and if, the conduct bears upon potential job responsibilities; and
- The individual’s employment history before and after the conduct.
Over the past five years, the hit rate for criminal background checks has been on the decline as more nonprofit organizations background check their new hires. A recent study’s, data showed that from 2007 to 2011, more than 5.4 million background checks we conducted by nonprofits and 22 percent of those checks resulted in criminal hits.
Of that 22 percent (approximately 479,000), background checks revealed very serious kidnapping, murder, sex-related and drug-related offenses. While it is shocking to know that criminals who have been convicted of kidnapping or molestation could be working amongst children, elders and people in need, we know that criminals go where they know they can get in “under the radar” – organizations [they know] do not conduct background checks.
In organizations working with children, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, background checks are a must; the study found that 1,021 of the criminal hits were registered sex offenders, 603 convictions for kidnapping and 1,176 murder offenses.
What’s more is that between 2007 and 2011, 22 percent of those criminal hits also included 91,607 drug-related offenses including possession and distribution and 10,438 sex-related offenses. These figures are certainly eye-opening, but the good news is that these were hits, and thus these individuals were barred from employment at the nonprofits where they applied to work. Additionally, the number of criminals has declined over the past five years by 7 percent, according to the study.
The drop in criminal hits is attributed by the nonprofits’ use of background screening programs. When criminals know that nonprofits are conducting background checks, they seek employment somewhere else, so it is important for nonprofits to speak with background screening providers in order to mitigate risk, protect their reputations and those they seek to help.
Imagine you discovered the owner of your child’s daycare center was a convicted felony on such crime as battery, assault, domestic violence, grand theft and even manslaughter. Would this information prompt you to pause or re-consider the daycare center you select?
While you might assume that the state in which you live does a thorough background check on daycare owners and employees, you’ll be surprised to know that only 11 states in the U.S. conduct full background checks on potential daycare workers.
In an investigative report conducted by Dateline’s Chris Hansen, many daycares’ true colors were exposed when the investigative team questioned daycare owner’s criminal histories. In one case, it was revealed that Brighter Beginnings Pre School in Clearwater, Florida owner, Melissa Van Cleave has convictions for battery, domestic violence and a DUI, yet is still able to run her daycare.
Under The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, arrest records should only be used as a bar from employment if pertinent to the position. Child care-related crimes such as sex abuse, battery and manslaughter, for example, could be a bar from employment in the child care industry. Even if your state conducts a background check on a daycare center, it’s important as a parent to ask the right question such as the type of background check conducted, do research, and occasionally visit the daycare unannounced.
Here are some surprising statistics about background checks and child care providers:
- About 12 million children under the age of 5 are in some type of child care setting every week.
- Children may be cared for by an adult other than a parent for 35-45 hours each week.
- 21 states do not conduct fingerprint checks.
- 43 states do not check the sex offender registry for child care staff.
- 24 states do not conduct a fingerprint check for family child care providers.
It’s well into the holiday season now, and a familiar sight to see while shopping for those last minute holiday gifts are the Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringers. If you’re feeling the spirit of the season and you decide to donate to the cause, it may surprise you to hear that the Salvation Army did not perform a background check on the volunteer taking your money. See video below by WKYC:
After applying to a volunteer coaching position in May 2010 at Juaniata College in Huntingdon, PA, college officials who did their due-diligence turned Jerry Sandusky down. Hiring personnel at the college denied Sandusky the position after conducting a background investigation and were made aware of the ex-Penn State assistant coach’s alleged improper behavior at a previous school.
Sandusky is currently at the forefront of a sexual abuse scandal, where he is being charged with 40 counts of molestation charges towards young boys over a 15-year period.
Although he failed a background check and was told by the Pennsylvania college’s administrators that they did not want him associated with their sports program, Sandusky still managed to serve as a “consultant.” Read more
In light of the events that have unfolded at Penn State and Syracuse Universities, it is important to recognize the unfortunate events that occurred, but also shed light on how the scandals happened. The incident has shocked the country – Penn State University’s former football coach, Jerry Sandusky is being charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse towards minors and the university’s revered football coach, Joe Paterno was fired.
Sandusky is the pinpoint in a wide-ranging investigation that involves eight boys over a 15-year period. Similarly, Syracuse University authorities allegedly ignored sex abuse allegations in 2002 against basketball coach Bernie Fine. A former ball boy for Syracuse University, Bobby Davis, and his girlfriend at the time, claim to have gone to university police back in 2002 with child-molestation allegations. The two have decided to come forward again in response to the media spectacle at Penn State – this time, hoping they will be heard.
The allegations facing administrators at both universities are cause for any parent or school to worry especially when the trust and care of minors are involved. The reaction to these two events by parents is overwhelming – many are questioning the hiring process for the administrators, teachers, coaches and the like who spend time with children. The incidents that have occurred also highlight the lack of background checks performed on individuals who work closely with children.
In one case, a group of parents whose children participate in Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks programs are demanding the adoption of background checks for all coaches and volunteers (Read more). In another recent case, Hollywood casting assistant, Jason James Murphy has caused anxiety amongst the parents of child actors who worked under Murphy. Murphy is a convicted child molester who served five years in prison for kidnapping and molesting an 8 year old boy. Parents of child actors are especially concerned since the casting process is typically a time where a child would be unsupervised by a parent or guardian (Read more).
Had background checks including federal court criminal records searches, statewide criminal records searches and criminal history reports, been performed some of these events could have been avoided. It is important to question whether or not background checks are performed amongst those our society trusts with minors to help eliminate the chances of pedophiles and predators preying on children.
When bringing a new employee on board, there’s no telling what their previous employment or criminal background was, apart from what they told you. As a hiring manager, it can sometimes be difficult to read a person who may be lying during the interview process or even trust that the background check you did was 100% accurate.
Sometimes state repositories for criminal convictions are inaccurate and not up to date, so companies can end up hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. Another loophole in criminal record background checks is that companies will only conduct the search within the hiring state. Nowadays, most employers will conduct background checks on new employees, but if the search is limited to only the current state of residence, they could end up hiring employees with criminal records – some of them with very serious charges.
Often times, criminal records are not discovered if people committed the crimes out of state. Alternatively, employers can better protect themselves and their clients by conducting more comprehensive criminal record searches, to include but not limited to:
- Conducting county-level criminal records research everywhere a person lived, worked or attended school;
- Running a multi-jurisdictional database scan, along with county-level criminal records searches, and;
- Conducting sex offender searches in each state of residence in addition to the research mentioned above.
Change of name and address also makes it difficult to background check employees or potential employees for criminal history. With a social security trace and/or address history search as part of the background check, hiring managers can make sure they are searching the right names, aliases, counties and states for a more complete picture of an employee’s background.
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About: First Contact HR provides employment screening services, including drug and alcohol testing, identity validations, criminal and credit records research, attitude and knowledge testing, driving records, identification badges and employment and education verifications.