North Carolina State Law Expands Background Checks for Emergency Medical and Fire Responders

By Michael Klazema on 1/23/2015

It used to be that fire departments and emergency medical service branches throughout North Carolina would only run background checks on new applicants. However, with a new state law that went into effect on New Year's Day, those emergency response branches will now be able and expected to run background checks on all employees and volunteers, not just new hires.

The move is a good one, for individual fire departments and EMS units scattered throughout the state as well as for public safety as a whole. A pre-employment background check is a good way for an employer to make sure that they are hiring good and trustworthy people. However, too many entities rely solely on these pre-hiring screening to verify the quality of their staffs. As a result, crimes committed during a person's employment often go overlooked and un-discussed.

Such a situation used to be the case with North Carolina's fire departments and EMS units. Feasibly, someone with a clean record could have started working for one of these emergency response branches and then essentially been given a "no questions asked" free pass concerning any future criminal activity. Of course, in most businesses where repeat background checks are not enforced, there is an honor system in place asking employees (or in this case, firefighters and EMS workers) to inform their supervisors about any criminal charges or convictions.

Obviously, such a system is not ideal, especially when lives are at stake. What if a firefighter was convicted of drunk driving during his employment, but was allowed to keep driving the fire truck because his supervisor never knew about the charge? Or what if an emergency medical worker was charged with illegally selling prescription drugs and medications stolen from the hospital? These are pieces of information that fire departments and EMS units absolutely must know about their employees or volunteers, and under North Carolina's new state law, they will.

How different emergency services departments will implement ongoing, repeat background checks for their workers is a bit up in the air. Some will likely opt for annual scheduled checks. Others may prefer to randomly check different employees at different times throughout the year. The latter model could work especially well if bundled with a drug test, which many fire and EMS departments do like run. Regardless of the models adopted, though, there's no doubt that this new law will help to make North Carolina's emergency services branches safer, stronger, and more trustworthy.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 22 Countrywide, states and local municipalities have committed to ban the box legislation, seeking to equalize opportunities in the job market for those with criminal histories.
  • March 22

    Thinking about becoming a firefighter? Here are some of the background check requirements you might face.

  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants.