Blog

 
     

Pennsylvania State Representative Wants to Exempt Emergency Responders from Paying for Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 6/4/2015

Under current legislation in the state of Pennsylvania, emergency response workers, including firefighters and emergency medical technicians, are required to pay $47.50 apiece for criminal background checks. The checks, which are required once every three years, were implemented last year, as part of Pennsylvania's amended Child Protective Services Law. The new amendment calls for every person who regularly comes in contact with children during the course of their work to go through state and FBI criminal checks and child abuse clearances. Now, though, a State Representative in Pennsylvania wants to tweak the law so that emergency responders don't have to pay for their own checks.

Right now, the checks are required not just for full-time workers, but for part-timers, contractors, and volunteers as well, and for some of those groups, the $47.50 price tag and the inconvenience of the background check process is enough to be a turn-off. This is particularly true for volunteer firefighters, and many fire departments that depend on volunteers, not just in Pennsylvania, but in other parts of the country where laws like this have been put in place, have struggled to maintain a full team of personnel as a result. State Rep Tina Davis thinks that exempting emergency response workers from the background check fee would help to curb the problem. Davis' legislation, House Bill 1081, would call for taxpayer dollars to cover those background check expenses as well.

The bulk of the cost is the fingerprinting and criminal history check through the FBI database, a background check that costs $27.50 per person. State Police criminal history checks add another $10 to the bill, as do state child abuse history clearances. No county-level checks are required for these positions. Reports from around the state say that volunteering numbers for emergency services, particularly for fire departments, are already declining. That's bad news, since Pennsylvania firefighters won't even be required to start paying for the checks until July. However, the fees are expected to exacerbate an existing problem with low volunteer interest for firefighters.

Already, volunteer firefighters have to face 100 hours of training before they can even get out in the field. Add a fee and the step of going somewhere to get fingerprinted, and it's not difficult to see why some might say "thanks, but no thanks." Low volunteer numbers in turn mean reduced fire coverage, leaving fewer and fewer firefighters to cover larger and larger territories. The question is, can the state get away with covering background check expenses for one group, but not covering them for another? Or will House Bill 1081 lead to movements to cover background check expenses for teachers, coaches, referees, school volunteers, and others?

Another question is whether or not these checks are even doing all they could to protect children. State and federal criminal checks are a start, but many forget that most criminal convictions are logged at the county level. With inconsistent and unreliable reporting to state repositories, county courts still stand as the most dependable source for up-to-date criminal information. They are often dismissed because of their small scope, but the result is that Pennsylvania's big background check laws might not be providing the most comprehensive screening of the histories of people who work with kids.

Source: http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/local/tina-davis-wants-background-checks-required-for-ems-workers-to/article_a33e549d-93bb-5704-9e17-a600ebc73f1a.html



Tag Cloud
Categories
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • June 20 Repeat background checks are becoming more common, with companies in India leading the charge. What does this trend look like, and how can employers embrace it now to stay ahead of the curve?
  • June 19

    Every federal job involves a background check of some kind. These background checks and how they are evaluated vary based on job, department, and security clearance level.


  • June 18

  • June 14 Ban the box laws aim to improve opportunities for employment. Could they have the opposite effect instead?
  • June 13 Jacobs Petroleum Products is a regional petroleum company that operates throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Apart from their employees carrying much responsibility and have frequent contact with customers, the company’s hiring also tends to be segmented since individual store managers are responsible for hiring talent for their own stores. In this employment landscape, Jacobs Petroleum Products needed a reliable and effective way to screen its new hires for criminal infractions and other red flags.
  • June 12

    The University of Wisconsin System may tweak its hiring and reference check processes. The potential changes come after one of UW’s assistant deans was accused of sexual harassment.


  • June 07 Stories of abuse by coaches in youth sports leagues continue to crop up around the country, but rules and guidelines remain patchy and enforcement is often lacking. The struggle to implement an effective system continues nationwide.
  • June 07 Financial background checks, usually referred to as credit history checks, can be an effective way to find out if a candidate is fit to handle accounts, financial data, and other assets at your business.
  • June 06 The Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute recently commissioned a survey to find out how willing employers were to hire people with criminal records. The study indicates that managers, HR professionals, and employees themselves are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring and working with ex-offenders.
  • June 04 Are fingerprint background checks the gold standard for employee screening, or are they overhyped? We look at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these checks.