Proposed policy would require new hire background checks

By Lacey Irvin, CORRESPONDENT
On December 4, 2012

If a new policy is approved by the Office of the General Counsel, new USF employees will be subject to a background check, and all employees will be required to report criminal convictions during their employment.

The proposed policy states that new employees, including faculty, administration, staff and anyone with a temporary work status exceeding 60 days will be subjected to a Level 1 background check, which consists of a Florida name and employment history check, a check of the National Sex Offenders website and a local criminal record check. According to the policy proposal, some students and volunteers could also be subject to the check, depending upon assignment.

Background checks have become a standard expectation in the hiring process, university spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said in an email statement to The Oracle. If an incident occurs involving an employee, courts may look at whether it could have been prevented by previously conducting a background check. Failing to conduct a background check would place the university at risk for negligent hiring charges.

Many of the other (state university system) schools have implemented background checks over the past few years, Wade-Martinez said in the email. The issues at Penn State have also brought additional attention to the university hiring process.

However, Wade-Martinez said there were no specific instances (at USF) that resulted in this policy change.

Mark Bromley, associate professor of criminology and director of the masters in Criminal Justice Administration program, said background checks are a new trend.

Historically, I dont believe these type of background checks have been conducted on all employees, he said. For a long time they have been conducted on certain types of employees like University Police officers or people who may handle cash.

He said the motivation for the new policy stems from concern to prevent potential danger by implementing what he called overcautious procedures.

Most universities today are trying to do what they can to be proactive and prevent putting themselves in a situation of hiring somebody who might have a questionable past, but its not fool-proof, he said. People can still get hired and do things on the job.

If adopted, the policy would require employees to report any criminal conviction that occurs during USF employment to Human Resources.

According to the proposal, a Level 2 background check, which includes all Level 1 components as well as fingerprinting, will only be considered if a conviction that an employee did not report later comes to the surface, leaving reasonable doubt and probable cause to conduct a Level 2 background check.

Potential employees with criminal records would not be disqualified, the proposed policy states, but unreported convictions of felony or first degree misdemeanor would disqualify them.

The status of the proposal is pending approval by General Counsel.

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