A recently passed policy at Pennsylvania State University now requires all new hires and contract employees to complete a criminal background check before they receive final approval to report to work. This new policy, known as the “Background Check Process”, combines three previous Penn State policies into a more encompassing procedure that also is in compliance with the recent background check guidelines from the EEOC. According to associate vice president for Human Resources, Susan Basso, the new policy will create a safer environment at the University, and will assist in making better hiring decisions while minimizing risk.
The policy puts in place a more straight-forward process to make sure a candidate’s criminal history and records regarding potential child abuse are reviewed. The background checks will only be used for evaluating a candidate’s eligibility for working with the University. Also, current employees in “sensitive/critical” positions are required to undergo a background check if one has not been completed. Under the policy, sensitive and critical positions are defined as those responsible for protected data, such as auditors, tech staff, and payroll; positions with access to all facilities on the campus; and those responsible for hazardous materials or controlled substances. The updated policy covers volunteer and third-party employees, which the previous policies did not. Based on the nature of the job, other verifications besides a background check may be required also. These could include checking educational credentials, driving records, and employment history. For those in positions with access to the University’s financial resources, checks of credit histories will also be implemented.
A record of criminal conviction will not automatically result in disqualification for the individual, but the type of offense in relation to the job and how serious the offense was will be considered by the University. If a background check turns up a disqualifying offense, then the candidate will receive notification and have an opportunity to give additional information in order to resolve the issue. The University also has the right to conduct background checks on current employees if there are reasonable grounds for doing so. This includes if a check was never performed, if there is an incident on the job, or if a new or current position requires a background check. Although background check records will be part of employees’ personnel files, they will be kept separately from the employees’ regular personnel files in order to maintain confidentiality.
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