General University Reference Utility
POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: July 5, 2012
THIS VERSION Effective: February 19, 2016
This policy outlines a process for ensuring background checks are completed for any individuals, age 16 and over, (paid or unpaid) who are engaged by Penn State in any work capacity. This includes, but is not limited to, employees; volunteers; 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 requires individuals engaged by the University 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.
Nothing herein is intended to contradict or lessen compliance with applicable federal and state laws or regulations.
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.
This policy applies to individuals engaged by Penn State in any work capacity including, but not limited to, the following positions:
Background checks will not be required under the following circumstances unless the individual has direct contact with minors; or has otherwise been identified as covered under this policy due to the nature and or length of his/her assignment.
Conviction: Being found guilty, entering a guilty plea or pleading no contest before a court, a district justice or magistrate resulting in a fine, sentence or probation. This definition does not include convictions for which the individual's record has been expunged.
Employee: Any person whose wages are paid directly by Penn State, whether full-or part-time and regardless of whether the position is benefits-eligible.
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.
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.
Sensitive/Critical Positions:Positions that include one or more of the following responsibilities:
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.
Engagement with the University is contingent upon the results of a background check. A standard background check must be completed prior to the first day of work/engagement with the University. Any exceptions must be approved by the Office of Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division.
Standard Background Check
A standard background check will include a social security number verification; a misdemeanor and felony criminal history check; and National Sex and Violent Offender Registry check.
Candidates will be informed that the offer is contingent upon a satisfactory background check. The candidate will be required to complete self-disclosure and consent forms authorizing Penn State to complete a standard background check.
Additional background checks may be required for specific positions based on job-related need, including the following:
Publicly Available Clearances
Individuals engaged with the University that have direct contact with minors or direct volunteer contact with minors as defined in Policy AD39 are required to obtain the publicly available clearances in lieu of a standard background check. Current employees, unpaid individuals, and third-party employees may also obtain publicly available clearances in lieu of a standard background check. Publicly available clearances include the following:
Instructions for completion of the publicly available clearances may be found in the Penn State Information for Completing PA Publicly Available Background Checks.
Review of Background Checks
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.
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 result in automatic disqualification but will be considered by the university to the extent it relates to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which the applicant has applied, and may be considered based on the following factors:
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.
Upon request, the University will provide candidates, employees and volunteers with a copy of their background investigation reports not already in their possession, regardless of outcome and without charge.
In cases for which information revealed in a background check 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/or other applicable law(s).
Grounds for Denying Employment, Volunteerism or Engagement with the University that Involves Direct Contact with Minors
As provided by the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (23 Pa.C.S. §§6301, et seq.), knowledge of the following information about an individual will result in denial of employment, volunteer position or other engagement with the University:
A felony offense under section 5902(b) (relating to prostitution and related offenses).
Section 5903(c) or (d) (relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances).
Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).
Section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children).
The attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the offenses set forth in this paragraph.
If information is discovered or revealed that would result in denial of employment, volunteerism or engagement based on the above standards:i. The applicant will be removed from consideration for employment, volunteerism, or engagement; or
Felony and misdemeanor convictions beyond those noted above will not result in automatic disqualification but will be considered by the University based on the factors described above.
Breaks in Service
For employees, a break in service of less than five (5) years does not require a new background check, unless the individual returns to an assignment requiring a check(s) which was not previously performed, or for which publicly available clearances are no longer valid.
Individuals with a break in service of six (6) months or longer are required to complete a Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form before returning to work. Individuals with a break in services of six months or less, including sabbatical leave, maternity leave, or other types of approved leaves of six months or less, are reminded that this self-disclosure requirement is still in force.
Third-party contractors include consultants, temporary staffing agency employees, and other third-party vendors 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:
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:
Executives, Administrators, and Academic Administrators
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.
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.
Individuals currently employed or engaged by the University (whether paid or unpaid) are required to notify the appropriate Human Resources representative of certain arrests (charged with a misdemeanor or felony) or convictions within 72 hours of occurrence by using the Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form. The arrests and convictions that must be reported are listed on the self-disclosure form.
Failure to report any arrest or conviction 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 Office of Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division.
Information will be used only if job related and will not necessarily affect employment. The Office of 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. Depending on the facts and the employee's involvement in the events leading to arrest and/or conviction, arrests and convictions reported to the employee’s department may subject the employee to discipline, up to and including termination.
Records gathered as a result of a background screening check will be maintained as confidential records by the University, and will be maintained in accordance with the Penn State records retention schedule.
Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form
Penn State Information for Completing PA Publicly Available Background Checks
Other Policies in this Manual should also be referenced, especially the following:
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
HR11 - Affirmative Action in Employment at The Pennsylvania State University