Penn State Makes Major Revisions to Background Check Policy

Perhaps, as a response to the recent verdict in the Jerry Sandusky case, Penn State decided to change its background check policy. Going into effect on July 5, the new guidelines cover a broader swath of staff, are far more comprehensive, and combine the past three policies.

The new criminal background checks, known to the university as HR99, will be given to job candidates in the final stages, third-party employees, and existing workers in “sensitive” positions. The new standards, additionally, are in accordance with the recent EEOC recommendations.

Criminal history and child abuse checks are receiving more emphasis, being conducted more thoroughly and reviewed for each academic and nonacademic employee. An individual’s history, in this regard, will be the determining factor for hiring – but, that’s not to say pre-employment background checks will soon be used as a blanket measure at Penn State. Instead, following EEOC recommendations, an individual’s criminal convictions will be analyzed and taken into consideration in regards to job duties.

Employees, as we have seen here before, have a tendency to be not-100-percent truthful when it comes to background checks, either adding or fabricating employment history or not checking the box for criminal history when, in fact, the individual has past crimes above a misdemeanor level. As a response to this issue and likely Sandusky’s own criminal history (in 2010, he failed a background check when applying for volunteer work with Juniata College), Penn State now expects all employees to self-disclose arrests and criminal convictions; not doing so is cause for discipline and termination.

To meet the requirements of certain jobs on campus, be it for teaching at a high level, handling records, or even driving, Penn State is essentially taking a custom approach based on duties for specific positions. As a result, new background checks for potential hires may involve examining vehicle records, educational and employment history, and credit. About these and other changes, Susan Basso, associate vice president for the college’s human resources department, said in a statement:

“To provide the safest possible environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors it is imperative that Penn State implements consistent and thorough background check procedures. This policy will help the University make sound hiring decisions and also will help minimize risk for the University.”

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