• Are Nursing Home Workers Required to Pass a Background Check?

    Laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

    Background checks provide employers with an invaluable measure of how much they can trust a potential employee. They are used by many different industries, including child care and educational settings, financial institutions, and any other area that puts a person in contact with financial temptation or vulnerable populations. When it comes to nursing home employees, there is no federal requirement that workers pass a background check, and state laws are extremely varied. In the state of New Jersey all new candidates for personal care assistants, nurse’s aides, and home health aide positions are required to submit to Criminal Background Investigations under the auspices of the state police and the FBI, but in the state of Pennsylvania, the law is much less clear.

    Though Pennsylvania does have a law called the Older Adults Protective Services Act which requires potential employees to submit to a criminal background check, the Commonwealth Court recently decided that even those who have been convicted of criminal acts cannot be subject to a lifetime prohibition from being hired by a nursing home.

    The court’s ruling makes it challenging for Pennsylvania nursing homes and long-term care facilities to use the background checks for their implicit purpose, which is to protect vulnerable residents from nursing home abuse.  Beyond this concern, there is also evidence that even those facilities that use background check procedures end up having at least one employee who has been convicted of a crime.

    Federal law does indicate that facilities that care for the elderly are prohibited from hiring people convicted of violent crimes against patients into direct access positions that involve them interacting with residents. Unfortunately, this prohibition does not specify how facilities are to ascertain whether this type of crime has been committed: the background check procedure is completely discretionary, and this has led to an unfortunate number of patients being harmed.

    Nursing home abuse is a broad term that covers a range of different types of harm. It includes physical harm, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Nursing home neglect is another significant concern. Even in situations where people who have been violent in their past are screened out of nursing home positions, that still leaves people vulnerable to other types of abuse. If you or someone you love has suffered at the hands of a nursing home employee, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.

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