New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco and New York State Senator Katy Marchione have drafted a new piece of legislation in response to the recent arrest of Richard Ragone, a man who allegedly sexually abused a 91-year-old woman. Ragone, a maintenance man at an elder care facility since 2008, was a Level 3 offender and had been convicted of rape, sodomy, and attempted sexual abuse and served 16 years in prison. Ragone was fired immediately after the incident was reported to the supervisors of the home and is currently being held in Albany County jail on $25,000 bail. Currently, there is no law in place that requires any kind of background check of senior care facility employees. The adult care home that hired Ragone stated that they do perform background checks, but it remains unclear if they conducted one on Ragone since he was a maintenance worker. The proposed legislation would require that all employees of adult homes and assisted living residences pass a sex offender background check. If any current or prospective employees were convicted sex offenders, they will be automatically barred from working at the facility.
Tedisco, a strong voice in the civil confinement law back in 2007, believes that these background checks are necessary in order to keep the seniors in assisted living safe and give their families a piece of mind. He states that, "Dangerous sex offenders...should never be able to work in any adult home or assisted living residence ever again." Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's new hiring practices state that companies cannot immediately disqualify a person because of their criminal background, legislation such as this could override EEOC policy. Even without legislation, employers can disqualify candidates based on the criminal history if the nature of the crime and job are inherently linked. Companies must, however, provide an opportunity for an individualized assessment for people excluded by such screening. Even with proper justification, many companies might still find themselves in a precarious situation with the interpretations by the EEOC. Legislation such as the one that Tedisco and Marchione have proposed is intended to take that burden off of elder care facilities.
If the legislation is passed, it will not necessarily put any monetary burden on the elder care facilities, as it is free for businesses to run background checks of potential employees through the New York's Sex Offender Registry. It will not put any burden on the state either, as the employers will be responsible for conducting the background checks. Tedisco and Marchione view the legislation as a necessary step to ensure the safety of the senior citizens in New York. Marchione states, "Requiring prospective employees seeking to be entrusted with that responsibility to undergo background review is a proactive step that could help prevent future tragedies from occurring." The new bill is currently being considered in the new legislative sessions.
When it comes to positions in which one person has control over the care of another, it’s always a good idea to get thorough screenings through reputable organizations like backgroundchecks.com. This way, companies have access to not only verification checks, but also multi-jurisdictional databases like US Offender OneSEARCH that search across all states for records including sex, violent, and drug offenses. For a search that access more than 450 million criminal records, companies can also use US OneSEARCH to get as much of the most accurate conviction information as possible about potential employees.
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Author: Michael Klazema