THE MAGAZINE

State Legislature Wrap-Up: Background Checks

Continuing with a trend that began several years ago, many states are requiring that criminal background checks be conducted on individuals in certain jobs, such as in childcare or healthcare settings.

Most frequently, states passed laws requiring background checks on those who care for children. For example, in Hawaii, employees, prospective employees, and volunteers who work with youth must undergo criminal records checks before they can begin work. Similarly, Tennessee passed a law requiring background checks on childcare workers as well as contractors who provide transportation services to childcare companies.

A new Utah law opens up juvenile criminal records in certain cases. It would require background checks—although no fingerprinting—for anyone age 12 through 17 who resides in a home in which foster children are to be placed. A Maryland law requires that private schools conduct background checks on anyone having contact with students, and it prohibits such schools from hiring anyone with a background of sexual assault or violence. Virginia approved a bill requiring the same for public school contract employees.

Virginia lawmakers also approved a provision requiring that any company or organization that provides care to children, the elderly, or the disabled perform criminal background checks on all employees and volunteers. A Georgia law requires the same measures but specifies that youth sports organizations and other groups that sponsor youth activities must conduct the checks.

In Michigan, lawmakers approved a bill that would require adult foster-care facilities to perform background checks on its employees and require the same from its contractors. Those applicants who have been convicted of certain felonies, including those involving cruelty, criminal sexual conduct, abuse, neglect, or misuse of prescription drugs, may not be hired. A similar Michigan law requires the same of organizations providing care for the mentally retarded.

A Hawaii law requires background checks on employees of companies that provide adult nursing care, services for the mentally retarded, hospitals, rural health centers, and rehabilitation agencies. These companies must also conduct checks on all volunteers, service providers, and others who might be in contact with patients.

Virginia has passed a law requiring all companies that employ workers who must enter the homes of customers to conduct background checks on these employees. New York has passed a law requiring that flight schools administer criminal background checks on all applicants. Under the law, applicants must be cleared by the state criminal justice division before they may begin training.

In Virginia, shipyard facilities must screen employers and contractors.

Alaskan lawmakers approved a bill requiring background checks for explosives handlers. In West Virginia, a new law requires background screening of homeland security and emergency service personnel. A new law in Utah requires screening of those who provide ground transportation to airports.

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