PENN STATE - HUMAN RESOURCES

Policy HR99 Background Check Process

POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: July 5, 2012
THIS VERSION Effective: February 25, 2013

Contents:

  • Purpose
  • Overview
  • Individuals Covered by This Policy
  • Individuals Not Covered by This Policy
  • Definitions
  • Background Check Inquiries
  • Background Check Process
  • Periodic Updates or Additional Background Checks
  • Recruitment Notices
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Evaluation of Resulting Report
  • Confidentiality
  • Related Documents
  • Cross-references

  • PURPOSE:

    This policy establishes a process for ensuring background checks are completed for any individuals, age 18 and over, (paid or unpaid) who are engaged by Penn State in any work capacity effective on or after the date of this policy. This includes, but is not limited to, employees; volunteers working with minors; adjunct faculty; consultants and contractors who conduct their work on Penn State premises or who represent Penn State at non-Penn State locations; visiting scholars; graduate assistants; or other similar positions. In addition, it establishes a process requiring individuals engaged by the University, including those engaged prior to, as of, or after, the effective date of this policy, to self-disclose criminal arrests and/or convictions as outlined in the Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form within a 72-hour period of their occurrence.

    Background checks will be used solely to evaluate candidates’ eligibility to be engaged in any work capacity by the University, and will not be used to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, gender, disability or handicap, age, genetic information, veteran’s status, gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Criminal convictions will be reviewed with respect to the nature and gravity of the offense(s); time since conviction; completion of sentence or any other remediation; relevance to the position for which the candidate is being considered/employee is performing; and discrepancies between the background check and what the candidate/employee self-reported. When a finding adversely impacts eligibility to be engaged by the University in a specific position, the candidate will be notified of the decision and given associated information required by law.

    (Note: Nothing herein is intended to contradict or lessen application of applicable federal or state laws or regulations.)

    OVERVIEW:

    Penn State strives to provide the safest possible environment for its students, faculty, staff and visitors; to preserve University resources; and to uphold the reputation and integrity of the University. This policy supports the University’s efforts to minimize institutional risk, provide a safe environment, and assist hiring authorities in making sound hiring decisions.

    INDIVIDUALS COVERED BY THIS POLICY:

    Individuals engaged by Penn State in any work capacity beginning on or after the date of this policy including, but not limited to, the following positions:

    INDIVIDUALS NOT COVERED BY THIS POLICY:

    Background checks will not be required for the following circumstances unless the individual is considered to be in a sensitive/critical position (such as working with minors) or has been otherwise identified as being covered by this policy due to the nature and or length of his/her assignment.

    DEFINITIONS:

    Consumer Report

    Defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act as: “Any communication of information by a Consumer Reporting Agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, or personal characteristics.” This includes background check information such as criminal history, sex offender registry checks, motor vehicle record checks, educational checks, etc. if provided by a Consumer Reporting Agency. Penn State’s use of credit history checks will be limited to circumstances described below in “credit history check” definition.

    Consumer Reporting Agency

    Defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act as: “Any person or entity which, for a fee, dues or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information, or other information, on consumers for the purpose of furnishing Consumer Reports to third parties.” For the purposes of this policy, a Consumer Reporting Agency refers to the vendor used by Penn State to conduct Background Checks.

    Credit History Check

    Review of the individual’s detailed credit history, as contained in a Consumer Report in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Penn State’s use of credit history checks will be consistent with Pennsylvania law that states “it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer or any employer's agent, representative or designee to require an employee or prospective employee to consent to the creation of a credit report that contains information about the employee's or prospective employee's credit score, credit account balances, payment history, savings or checking account balances or savings or checking account numbers as a condition of employment unless one of the following applies: (1) Such report is substantially related to the employee's current or potential job. (2) Such report is required by law. (3) The employer reasonably believes that the employee has engaged in a specific activity that constitutes a violation of the law.” Federal laws prohibit discrimination against an applicant or employee as a result of bankruptcy.

    Criminal Conviction

    Being found guilty, entering a guilty plea or pleading no contest to a felony and/or misdemeanor. Convictions for which the individual’s record has been expunged may not be considered.

    Criminal History Check

    Verification that the individual does not have any undisclosed criminal convictions in any jurisdiction where he or she has resided or where he or she currently resides.

    Educational Verification

    Confirmation of the individual’s educational credentials listed on the application, resume or cover letter, or otherwise cited by the individual.

    Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

    A Federal law designed to promote the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of Consumer Reporting Agencies, codified at 15 U.S.C. §1681 et seq.

    License Verification

    Confirmation that the selected candidate or employee possesses all licenses listed on the application, resume or cover letter, or otherwise cited by the candidate or employee, including verification of the disposition of such licenses. This includes any motor vehicle driver’s licenses required for a position.

    Minor

    A person under the age of eighteen (18) who is not enrolled or accepted for enrollment at the University. Students who are “dually enrolled” in University programs while also enrolled in elementary, middle and/or high school are not included in this policy unless such enrollment includes overnight housing in University facilities.

    Penn State University

    Any campus, unit, program, association or entity of Penn State with the exception of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center campus (including the College of Medicine) which will follow a separate policy that reflects the unique activities that occur on that campus.

    Senior Leader

    For the purposes of this policy, the Senior Leader will be considered as one or more of the following:

    Sensitive/Critical Positions

    Positions whose responsibilities may include the following:

    Sensitive Facilities/Programs

    University facilities/programs that require special clearance or background checks for access or that permit unsupervised access to records that are confidential or otherwise have special protections under State or Federal law e.g. export controls.

    Sex and Violent Offender Registry Check

    A national search to verify that the selected individual does not have undisclosed convictions of certain sex and violent crimes.

    Visiting Scholars

    For the purposes of this policy, visiting scholars include academic members of other institutions whose interaction at Penn State goes beyond the definition of a general visitor due to 1) being provided with financial support (beyond honorarium) or administrative support such as housing, wages (whether paid directly to the individual or to their “home” institution), visa sponsorship, computer network access, office space, key access, etc. 2) interacting with (conducting research, lab work, etc.) or teaching students for a period in excess of ten consecutive business days 3)working with minors covered by Policy AD39 or 4) working in sensitive facilities/programs as defined in this policy.

    Volunteers

    Individuals who offer their services without cost to the University for civic reasons and whose services are not typically performed by University employees. Examples include serving as a docent at a University museum or educational facility, working on a University advisory or development committee, or otherwise performing duties that are of benefit to the University’s teaching, research, and/or public service missions. Only volunteers working with minors, as defined and covered by Policy AD39 - Minors involved in University-sponsored Programs or Programs held at the University and/or Housed in University Facilities or those working in sensitive/critical positions as described in this policy are required to complete background checks.

    BACKGROUND CHECK INQUIRIES:

    Verification of credentials and other information about an employee or other individual (paid or unpaid) may include any or all of the following:

    Standard Background Check:

    Additional Background Check items as required for specific positions based on job-related need:

    Publicly-available Background Checks:

    Current employees, unpaid individuals, and third-party employees may obtain background checks through the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. The background checks include a Pennsylvania criminal history check, an FBI criminal history report that requires fingerprinting, and a Pennsylvania child abuse clearance. Completion of these three checks may be substituted for the standard Penn State background check unless additional background checks are outlined as being required for the position. Instructions for completion of the publicly-available background checks can be found in the Penn State Information for Completing PA Publicly Available Background Checks. Background checks through the Pennsylvania Department of Education process are also accepted if an individual has completed this process due to employment in the education field. New employees and employees with greater than a six-month break-in-service must complete the Penn State background check process.

    The cost for these clearances will be the responsibility of the individual unless specifically authorized for reimbursement processing by the sponsoring organization. All clearances for employees and anyone working with minors as defined in Policy AD39 must be completed annually. Unpaid or third-party individuals who are not working with minors must provide clearances dated within two years prior to the date of the assignment. In addition, the individual must self-disclose any arrests or convictions as outlined in the Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form that occur between the time of clearance and the date work begins.

    BACKGROUND CHECK PROCESS:

    A successful background check must be completed prior to the first day of work/engagement with the University in the position identified. Any exceptions will need to be approved by the Office of Human Resources’ Recruitment and Compensation Division.

    Employees:

    Employees are considered to be any person whose wages are paid directly by Penn State, whether full-or part-time and regardless of whether the position is benefits-eligible. Candidates will be informed that the offer is contingent on a satisfactory background check that will be conducted by a consumer reporting agency for review by the University. The candidate will be required to complete self-disclosure and consent forms authorizing Penn State to complete the background check process.

    Candidates for employment who fail to participate fully or who provide inaccurate information in a background check will be eliminated from consideration for the position. Candidates may decline to authorize a background check; in such cases, no background check will be performed, but the candidate will not be considered further.

    The existence of a criminal conviction will not automatically disqualify an individual from employment or employment consideration. The University will consider the nature and gravity of the offense(s); time since conviction; completion of sentence or any other remediation; relevance to the position for which the candidate is being considered/employee is performing; and discrepancies between the background check and what the candidate/employee self-reported. When a finding adversely impacts employment eligibility, the candidate will be notified and may be withdrawn from employment consideration.

    The University will provide candidates access to a copy of their background check reports upon request, regardless of outcome and without charge to the candidate. In cases where information in the background check report will result in an adverse hiring decision, the University will provide a copy of the report to the candidate without his or her request. In cases in which information in a Consumer Report, such as a background check showing criminal convictions affecting the candidate’s ability to perform the specific job in question, will result in an adverse employment decision, the University will provide the candidate with all required notifications pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other applicable law(s).

    Executives, Administrators, and Academic Administrators hired through an executive staffing agency or similar staffing company must complete either a Penn State background check consistent with position requirements or have confirmation of a background check of the required criteria having been completed by the staffing agency.

    For employees, a break in service of six months or less does not require a new background check unless the individual returns to an assignment requiring a check(s) which was not previously performed. Individuals with a break in service of six months or less should be reminded that the self-disclosure requirement to report arrests and/or convictions within 72 hours of their occurrence is still in force. Approved employee leaves such as sabbatical leave, maternity leave, or other types of approved leaves of six months or longer will require the employee to complete a Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form before returning to work. Other breaks in service for employees of greater than six months require a new background check to be completed.

    Unpaid Individuals:

    This includes interns, adjunct faculty, visiting scholars, or other individuals working for or engaged by the University. Depending upon the responsibilities of the position, the individual must either:

    1. Obtain the publicly-available background checks as outlined in the definitions above prior to beginning work.
    2. Be sponsored by the engaging unit to have a background check(s) completed by the University based on the job requirements of the position. The background check must be satisfactorily completed prior to beginning work.

    Unpaid individuals working with minors must follow the requirements of Policy AD39 which requires that successful background checks be completed annually. All other sensitive/critical unpaid positions must complete background checks within 2 years of the assignments. Positions working at Penn State will be contingent upon the results of a background check.

    Third-party Employees:

    This includes consultants, contractors and temporary staffing agency employees working for or engaged by the University who conduct their work on Penn State premises or who represent Penn State at non-Penn State locations. Depending upon the responsibilities of the position, the individual must either:

    1. Be covered by a signed contractor’s/vendor’s agreement that confirms its employees have had background checks that meet or exceed the University’s standards for the type of work being performed.
    2. Obtain the publicly-available background checks as outlined in the definitions above prior to beginning work.
    3. Be sponsored by the engaging unit to have a background check(s) completed by the University based on the job requirements of the position. The background check must be satisfactorily completed prior to beginning work.

    Third-party employees working with minors must follow the requirements of Policy AD39 which requires that successful background checks be completed annually. All other third-party positions must complete a background check within 2 years of the assignments. Positions working at Penn State will be contingent upon the results of a background check.

    PERIODIC UPDATES OR ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND CHECKS:

    Penn State retains the right to conduct relevant background checks of current employees when it has reasonable grounds to do so, e.g., no prior check was performed, a workplace incident has occurred, upon self-disclosure of criminal activity or upon the University being informed of such activity, update of information due to designation as sensitive/critical position, or upon a change of assignment.

    Further, individuals engaged by the University (whether paid or unpaid) are required to notify the appropriate Human Resources representative of an arrest (charged with a misdemeanor or felony) or conviction for an offense enumerated in the Penn State Arrest or Conviction self-disclosure form within 72 hours of knowledge of the arrest or conviction. The Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form provides the list of arrests and/or convictions that must be disclosed and this form must be used to provide the information in writing to the appropriate Human Resources representative. This includes any arrests or convictions that occur either between the date of disclosure for a University run background check and the date work begins, or the date of issuance of the publicly-available background checks, and the date work begins. Failure to report such incidents may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Employees of consulting companies and/or contractors are expected to inform their employers, who will review the situation with the Recruitment and Compensation Division.

    Information will be used only if job related and will not necessarily affect employment. Human Resources will notify the employee's department of an arrest or conviction only if it is determined that the arrest and/or conviction is pertinent to the employee's ability to carry out the duties or functions of his or her position. If reported to the employee's department, such arrests and/or convictions, depending on the facts and the employee's involvement in the events leading to arrest and/or conviction, may subject the employee to discipline, up to and including termination.

    Positions where it can be anticipated that a responsibility of the position will be to drive a vehicle on University business (whether a University-owned or other vehicle) or where an individual may be asked to transport minors, must pass a motor vehicle record check. Motor vehicle checks will be updated every three years for positions, as relevant, and it is the department's and supervisor's responsibility to initiate the process. Employees must comply with the self-disclosure requirement by notifying Human Resources of any arrests or convictions for driving while under the influence or the loss of the individual’s driver’s license due to traffic violations or other similar charges/convictions. This disclosure must be made within 72 hours of occurrence using the Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form. Such convictions may subject the employee or individual to discipline, up to and including termination. Failure to report such incidents may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

    State or federal law or regulations, professional associations, licensing entities or contracting partners may impose background screening check requirements upon certain individuals. In these cases, the affected individual and department should coordinate the need for such a check with the Office of Human Resources’ Recruitment and Compensation Division.

    RECRUITMENT NOTICES:

    Job postings (paid or unpaid) that require more verifications than the standard background check will include language identifying the need for individuals (including current University employees) to undergo a background check appropriate to the position’s responsibilities. Offers of employment to new hires of the University will be made contingent upon the results of the background check. If a current employee applies for a position that requires a non-standard background check, the offer for the new position will be contingent upon the results of the background check. Unpaid positions will be contingent upon the results of a background check.

    ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

    College/Campus/Unit Human Resources Responsibilities:

    1. Issue offer letters as “contingent upon successful background check”.
    2. Initiate the background check process via methodology proscribed by Recruitment and Compensation; communicate procedures to candidates.
    3. Ensure that applicable individuals engaged by the University (paid or unpaid) have successfully completed a background check or provided evidence of completion of acceptable background checks (publicly-available background checks as defined above; executive search firm background clearance) before beginning any assignments/work responsibilities.
    4. Notify the individual of any information obtained from the third-party vendor’s background check that may affect the hiring/engaging decision. Communicate to the individual that required legal notices will be provided.
    5. Confirm any authorization for payment for background checks for non-employees.

    Recruitment and Compensation Responsibilities:

    1. Secure contracts with consumer reporting agency for consumer reports including background screening services.
    2. Develop procedures for oversight of the background check policy and communicate methodology, forms, and/or computer access needs to college/campus/unit Human Resources departments.
    3. Coordinate with the hiring/engaging Human Resources department and the consumer reporting agency throughout the background check process.
    4. Review information resulting from the consumer reporting agency’s background check of an individual and determine whether the information may be relevant to the hiring/engaging unit’s decision. Advise the hiring/engaging unit if information may cause an adverse action on the hiring/engaging decision.
    5. If a candidate may no longer be considered for a position based on the background check results, provide written notice to the candidate including a copy of the background check report. The written notification will include a specified period of time in which the candidate may respond, which will be no less than five calendar days.
      1. If the candidate fails to respond within the specified time period, issue a second letter informing the candidate that he/she is no longer being considered for the position.
      2. If the candidate responds within the specified time period, review any appeal submitted by the candidate challenging the accuracy of information contained in the report.
    6. Implement and interpret this policy and provide guidance to hiring/engaging units.

    EVALUATION OF RESULTING REPORT:

    The following are among the factors that Human Resources will consider when evaluating the results of the background screening check:

    The background screening check of a candidate who also is a current employee, may impact the current employee's employment, particularly absent full self-disclosure.

    CONFIDENTIALITY:

    Records gathered as a result of a background screening check will be maintained by Recruitment and Compensation. Any records related to a candidate or an employee must be returned to Recruitment and Compensation and will be maintained in accordance with the Penn State records retention schedule.

    RELATED DOCUMENTS:

    Summary of rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

    www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre35.pdf

    Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form

    Penn State Information for Completing PA Publicly Available Background Checks

    CROSS REFERENCES:

    Other Policies in this Manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

    AD12 - Sexual Assault, Relationship and Domestic Violence, and Stalking

    AD29 - Statement on Intolerance

    AD33 - A Drug-Free Workplace

    AD39 - Minors involved in University-sponsored Programs or Programs held at the University and/or Housed in University Facilities

    AD41 - Sexual Harassment

    AD42 - Statement on Nondiscrimination

    AD72- Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

    BS17- Use and Procurement of External Consultants

    HR05 - "Regular" and "Nonregular" University Employees

    HR06 - Types of Appointments

    HR07 - University Appointments without Remuneration

    HR08 - Establishment of a Staff or a Technical Service Position

    HR11 - Affirmative Action in Employment at The Pennsylvania State University

    HR13 - Recommended Procedure for Hiring New Faculty

    HR14 - Forms to be Filled Out by and for Each New Regular Employee

    HR34 - Employment Conditions for Staff Employees

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