University of Illinois Employees Not Pleased with New Background Check Policy

By Michael Klazema on 5/6/2015

For as long as most can remember, the University of Illinois has had an unusually lax background check policy in place for its employees. Certain individuals have always been expected to undergo screenings prior to employment, such as any workers in charge of handling money or finances, or anyone working in the university hospital. Other background check polices have been added more recently, like screenings for any employees who work closely or consistently with children, a policy put in place following the Penn State child sex abuse scandal that broke in 2012.

As for U of I's everyday professors or hourly workers, though, background checks have never been a requirement. That's all changing this year, as the university expands background check policies to include every full-time faculty member, part-time professor, contract worker, or academic professional that works there. Student workers will be mostly exempt from the policy—which will likely be implemented in June, but every other new hire will have to go through a background check. It is unclear whether U of I intends to run background checks on existing employees, or just on new hires.

Still, while existing professors and faculty members might not even be affected by the new background check policy, in an article published by The News-Gazette, a newspaper that operates in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, many quoted professors aired their grievances about the new measure. Some questioned why the University of Illinois even needed to run background checks of all of its employees; others wondered about the privacy implications of the new policy; one professor even wondered if the policy would scare off minority applicants, "given disproportionately higher conviction rates," while another thought that background checks should be skipped to give ex-offenders a chance at employment.

At least one faculty member, though, a law professor, understood why the university was making such substantial changes to the background check policy. As the professor noted, employers in Illinois (and in most parts of the United States) can face liability if they fail to run background checks on employees. Under the current policy, where many faculty members at the University of Illinois have not undergone background checks, the school could face negligent hiring lawsuits if something went wrong and, for instance, a professor harmed a student. By doing their due diligence and running background checks on every new hire, U of I will be avoiding such risks in the future.

As for the fear that background checks will impact minority or ex-offend employment opportunity, both of those complaints are rendered more or less void by the fact that Illinois observes ban the box policies. Under ban the box laws, Illinois employers cannot ask about criminal history on job applications, or run background checks until later in the screening process. And since University of Illinois has vowed to only run background checks on applicants after they have been given a conditional offer of employment, the school will clearly not be turning away ex-offenders and minorities en masse.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 20 Employers who use E-Verify must follow the proper steps and procedures when they receive a “tentative non-confirmation notice” from either the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security. Failure to follow the proper procedures can cost employers both time and money. 
  • 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. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.