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Penn State Creates New Background Check Policy

by on July 06, 2012 12:24 PM

Penn State now requires criminal background checks for final job candidates and third-party employees offered employment and before they begin working at the university.

Launched Thursday, three of the university's policies – HR69, HR95 and HR96 – were combined into a new policy, HR99, also known as "Background Check Process." It's a more comprehensive procedure falling in line with recently issued U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on background checks, according to Penn State officials.

The new policy ensures a clear-cut process will be followed with each new hire that a candidate's criminal history and any potential child abuse records are reviewed.

University officials said background checks will be used to evaluate only candidates' eligibility to be employed in any capacity by the university.

Any current employees considered to hold sensitive or critical positions, as defined by the policy, must also complete background checks if they have not already done so.

Sensitive or critical positions include jurisdiction over protected, personal or other sensitive data, such as auditors, registrars, technology, human resources and payroll, positions with master key access to all offices and facilities within buildings and positions with responsibility for controlled substances or hazardous materials, according to university officials.

Susan Basso, associate vice president for Human Resources said the implementation of this background check is to make sure Penn State provides "the safest possible environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors."

"It is imperative ... this policy will help the university make sound hiring decisions and also help minimize risk for the university," Basso said.

The new policy requires current and potential employees to self-disclose any criminal arrests and/or convictions within 72 hours of any such occurrence.

Anyone who fails to participate fully or provides false information will be eliminated from employment candidacy. Current employees who fail to report to their Human Resources representative will face disciplinary action which could result in termination from his or her position.

The updated policy covers all positions, academic and non-academic, unpaid positions and third-party employees working on Penn State's behalf, according to Penn State officials. The policy prior only provided background checks for academic positions and "other-than-academic" positions.

Third-party employees include interns, adjunct professors, consultants, temporary employees and contractors.

Other verifications may be considered necessary based on the job description and its responsibilities.

Motor vehicle checks will be conducted for individuals that are charged with driving a Penn State-sanctioned vehicle, or those who may be asked to transport minors. Such records will be verified every three years and will be initiated by a department supervisor.

Credit history checks may also be required as it is consistent with the Fair Credit Reporting Act for individuals in sensitive or critical positions "with extensive authority to commit the financial resources of the university or who have extensive cash-handling responsibilities," Penn State officials said.

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

The policy in its entirety and complete details of who is required to submit to a background check is available here.

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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