In Oklahoma, paramedics who are employed by the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) are only known by name to the organization. They know nothing about their employee’s backgrounds. The reason they don’t know is because the organization doesn’t directly hire their employees, the employees are hired through a separate organization called Paramedic’s Plus who does all of the hiring, maintains records and also performs the background checks on these EMT’s. EMSA has no access to any of these documents at this time.
After a fatal car accident in Oklahoma City involving an ambulance in which one of the employees of EMSA was found at fault, questions began being asked and requests were sent by The Tulsa World newspaper to the EMSA and Paramedic’s Plus for answers on felony convictions of their employees.
Paramedic’s Plus, according to their records, checks several elements in a potential employees background, including a pre-employment license verification, a check of motor vehicle records and of course, a criminal background investigation. Company policy allows employees with certain misdemeanors to be hired but not those with felony convictions.
The response to the The Tulsa World record request was a listing of all of their employee names, hire dates and license numbers, but no additional information was provided to the newspaper. Both organizations refused to give out any other personal information on their employees. The Tulsa World used state public records from the State’s department of Corrections to search for possible matches and found 109 hits.
A similar search is available for employers at backgroundchecks.com using the Single State US OneSEARCH option which contains records from various reporting agencies throughout a single state. Examples of such sources that may contribute data are Department of Corrections, Administration of Courts, County Courts and offender registries in a state.
It should be noted, however, that many of these names are very common and without other identifying information, it cannot be determined if, for example, the John Smith who was found to have a felony record in Oklahoma was the same John Smith who works for EMSA. However, some names were very unique, leaving the The Tulsa World to ponder if all current EMSA employees are in compliance with the organizations policy of not employing Paramedics who lack a clean motor vehicle and criminal record.
The question of private personal identifiable information for public employees and who has access to them is a sticky one. Companies who do background checks do it to protect their employees and customers, but for some professions The Tulsa World thinks that it may be necessary for the public to be aware of the results of these background checks. In the case of EMSA and Paramedic’s Plus, Paramedic’s Plus protected the information and EMSA was given the option to reveal the information to the public.
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