Is There a Loophole in Pennsylvania's Child Protective Laws?

By Michael Klazema on 2/1/2016

Last year, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bevy of new laws designed to protect children from abuse. The legislative push was inspired by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that played out at Penn State University. The scandal was a nationwide news story that showed how a predator could use a job involving frequent contact with children to find and take advantage of victims. Last year's implementation of new child protection laws was a direct response to the scandal, designed to prevent similar cases in the future.

Among other things, the Pennsylvania laws demand in-depth background checks for all employees who work with children. However, it now looks like either there is a loophole in the law or someone is seriously misreading it. According to a report from ABC 27 News—an ABC affiliate based in the Harrisburg area—the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services "is advising doctors and medical personnel that they are no longer required to have criminal background checks." Evidently, the DHS has read the state's new laws in such a way that provides a loophole or an "out" for medical professionals who would have previously been required by law to go through background checks.

ABC 27 News interviewed one of the people who consulted on the creation of the child protective laws, and he said that he was "mystified" as to how anyone could draw that conclusion. However, the news station also interviewed someone who works for DHS, who said that the statement about doctors no longer needing background checks was far from a misreading or misinterpretation. If this DHS source is to be believed, Pennsylvania's recent law changes actually removed a clause that called for background checks of all medical professionals. As a result—in the opinion of the Department of Human Services, at least—there is not currently a law in Pennsylvania that requires background checks for doctors.

Even without looking at the legalese to determine whether or not there is a clause about medical professional background checks, the simple fact that there is a disagreement on the subject between one of the architects of the new legislation and DHS is cause for serious concern. While many hospitals or medical practices require their own pre-employment background checks of newly-hired doctors or staff, the state licensing checks are still important as an extra layer of security. In terms of child abuse clearances, doctors are probably less likely to have time alone with children than, say, youth sports coaches. However, if Pennsylvania's recent legislative update really did remove the background check requirement for doctors and medical professionals, that change affects more than just would-be child abusers or sexual predators. Those background checks are important for catching other charges, like violent crimes, drug problems, and other factors that might affect a person's ability to provide quality medical care.

Bottom line, the hope is that this alarming bit of news will inspire Pennsylvania officials to take a second look at their recent legislation and make sure that it hasn't removed the background check requirement for medical professionals. 



Industry News

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.