Human Resources Policies

HR99 Background Verification Requirements

Policy Status: 

Active

Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Human Resources

POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: July 5, 2012 

THIS VERSION Effective: July 1, 2022

Content:

PURPOSE:

This policy outlines the requirements for verifying the backgrounds of any individuals, age 16 and over, who are engaged by Penn State in any capacity. 

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 that would take precedent.

OVERVIEW:

Penn State strives to provide the safest possible environment for its students, faculty, staff and visitors 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.

DEFINITIONS:

Affiliates: Individuals who are engaged in work and activities that are paid or unpaid, which are fully or partially controlled or managed by the University not classified as an employee. This includes, but is not limited to, unpaid affiliations, volunteers, consultants and contractors who conduct their work on Penn State premises, or who represent Penn State at non-Penn State locations, visiting scholars as defined by University Policy AC01, graduate assistants, or other similar positions. 

Authorized Adult: Individuals aged eighteen (18) years of age or older, including University employees or affiliates, who have direct contact with minors during their university business or activity. Prior to interacting with minors, all Authorized Adults must have the required certification to work with minors on file with the University and have completion records for current University-provided training regarding reporting suspected child abuse. 

Certification to Work with Minors:

Certification includes obtaining the following:

  • Pennsylvania State Policy Criminal Background Check
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Federal (FBI) Fingerprint Background Check
  • National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) Clearance; required for individuals employed in childcare centers operated by Penn State. 

These certifications may also be referred to as "clearances" and/or "screens" in common parlance. 

NOTE: Based on program type, additional clearances may be needed. 

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. 

Employee: Any person whose wages or salaries and benefits are paid directly by Penn State, whether full- or part-time and regardless of whether the positions is benefits-eligible. This includes, but is not limited to, Faculty (including Adjunct Faculty), Staff, Technical Service employees, Graduate and Undergraduate Student employees, Work Study students, and part-time (wage payroll) employees. 

Penn State University: Any college, campus, unit, program, association, or entity of the educational institution known as Penn State designed for the instruction and examination of students, including research, across many fields of advanced learning to confer degrees and certifications. 

Sensitive/Critical Positions: 

The following contain examples of what constitute a sensitive/critical position:

  • Master key access to all, or the majority of all, offices/facilities within buildings (including residences or other on-site or off-site facilities), 
  • Direct responsibility for the care, safety and security of people, or the safety and security of personal and University property (includes those working with minors, child care workers, physicians, residence hall supervisors, coaches, transit drivers, those driving University vehicles, etc.)
  • Direct responsibility for the care, safety, and security of animals, 
  • Direct responsibility for providing legal counsel to the University and/or outside parties.
  • Direct access to or responsibility for cash, cash equivalents, checks, credit card account information, or University property distributions or receipts. 
  • Extensive authority for committing the financial resources of the University. 
  • Direct access to or responsibility for controlled substances or hazardous materials. 
  • Direct access to or responsibility for protected, personal, or other sensitive data (includes auditors, information systems personnel, human resources and payroll staff, registrars, etc.)
  • Administrator, Academic Administrator, and Executive positions. 
  • Other positions or assignments as defined by units that have a job-related need for additional background verifications. 

Unpaid Affiliation: Individuals who are not employed or paid by the University, such as temporary staff agency employees. 

INDIVIDUALS COVERED BY THIS POLICY:

This policy applies to individuals engaged by Penn State in any capacity including, but not limited to, the following positions:*

  • Staff
  • Faculty (including Adjunct Faculty)
  • Employees under Collective Bargaining Agreements
  • Post-Doctoral Scholars
  • Affiliates

*Considerations for an individual's direct contact with minors and/or nature and length of assignment are key in the determination of necessity for background verification. In the event of a unique circumstance, Penn State Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division, may be contacted to consider the circumstance. 

INDIVIDUALS NOT COVERED BY THIS POLICY:

Background verification will not be required under the following circumstances:

  • Individuals paid an "honorarium" as defined in University Policy BS17 - Use and Procurement of External Consultants (e.g. speakers, presenters): a payment given to a professional person (non-employee) for services for which fees are not legally or traditionally required (e.g. speakers, presenters, etc).
  • Individuals providing services requiring specialized skills where payment, if any, is provided through a "Special Request for Check" and reported to the individual via Form 1099. Services provided must be very limited in scope, typically one-time events ranging from less than 1 day to a maximum of 7 days service annually. Prior to engaging an individual to provide services, the unit Human Resources Representative should be consulted to determine if a background verification is necessary.
    • NOTE: If it is unknown how long or how often the individual will be providing services, or if there will be interaction with minors, the appropriate background verification will be required (e.g. independent contractors). 
  • Individuals working for third-party contractors on construction sites that vacant regardless of if it is either new construction or a project that is "fenced-in". However, if the construction is in a partially closed building (e.g. one floor is vacant while other floors are still in use) or for other reasons is mixed in its accessibility, third-party compliance with background checks will be required.

BACKGROUND VERFICIATION REQUIREMENTS:

Any affiliation with the University is conditional upon the results of a standard background verification. The standard background verification process must be completed prior to the first day of work/affiliation with the University. Employees and affiliations that do not work with minors will be asked to complete a standard background verification which includes a social security number verification, a misdemeanor and felony criminal history verification, and National Sex and Violent Offender Registry verification. Employees designed as an "Authorized Adult" must obtain a certification to work with minors prior to the first day of work/affiliation with the University. The certification to work with minors includes the following: 

  • Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Background Check
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Federal (FBI) Fingerprint Background Check
  • National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) Clearance: required for individuals employed in childcare centers operated by Penn State. 

Some university work units have determined a business necessity for all positions to be certified to work with minors. Penn State College of Medicine (PSCOM) employees are Penn State employees for whom business necessity has been identified. Numerous PSCOM employees have a primary work location at a separate employer and business entity, The Penn State Hershey Medical Center. All PSCOM employees located at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center have been deemed an Authorized Adult. 

Instruction for completion of the certification to work with minors may be found in Penn State Instruction for Completing Certification to Work with Minors. 

Any exceptions must be approved by the Penn State Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division. 

 

Additional Background Verifications: 

Additional background verifications may be required for specific positions based on job-related necessity, including the following: 

  • Education Verification: Required for faculty positions upon initial hire or for updated credentials except for emeritus academic positions. Such verification may be required for non-faculty positions, where defined in the job posting. 
  • Motor Vehicle Record: Required for positions where it can be anticipated that an individual will be regularly required to drive any vehicle on University business, or where an individual may be asked to transport minors. Motor vehicle checks will be updated every three (3) years for required positions. 
  • Credit History Verification: Conducted only for individuals who will hold sensitive/critical positions with extensive authority to commit financial resources for the University, including but not limited to, Administrator, Academic Administrator, Executive positions, or as required by law. 
  • Employment Verification: Conducted to confirm employment history. 
  • License Verification: Conducted to verify possession of all technical/professional licenses listed on the application, resume, cover letter, or otherwise cited by the candidate, employee or affiliate, including verification of the disposition of such license. 
  • State or federal law or regulations, professional associations, licensing entities, or contracting partners may impose background screening verification requirements upon certain individuals. In these cases, the affected individual and department should coordinate the need for such verification with the Penn State Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division. 
  • Out of State Equivalent for State Police. 
  • Other verifications, as needed, based on job requirements. 

SELF-DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL:

Individuals (whether paid or unpaid) are required to notify Human Resources of arrests or convictions within 72 hours of occurrence by using the Penn State Arrest and Conviction Self-Disclosure Form. An employee or affiliate who has taken a leave of absence from the University for a consecutive period of 6 months or greater must submit the form prior to returning to work. 

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 Penn State Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Division.

Penn State Human Resources will notify the employee's department of an arrest or conviction 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 their position. If job relatedness is determined, arrests and convictions reported to the employee’s department may subject the employee to discipline, up to and including termination.

REVIEW OF BACKGROUND VERIFICATION: 

Background verification will be used solely to evaluate candidate's 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 refuse a background verification, fail to participate fully in the verification, or who provide inaccurate information in a background verification will be eliminated from consideration for the position. 

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 while the applicant has applied. 

In situations where information revealed in a background verification 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). 

Upon request, the University will provide candidates, employees, and affiliates with a copy of their background investigation reports not already in their possession, regardless of outcome, and at free of charge. 

RECERTIFICATION OF BACKGROUND VERIFICATION:

Penn State retains the right to conduct relevant background verifications of current employees when it has reasonable grounds to do so. Circumstances may include the following:

  • An instance where no prior verification was performed.
  • A workplace incident has occurred.
  • Upon self-disclosure of criminal activity or upon the University being informed of such activity. 
  • A change to an employee's work assignment or responsibilities. 
  • A certification expiration date is pending or has been reached. 

CONFIDENTIALITY:

Records gathered as a result of a background verification will be maintained as confidential records by the University, and will be maintained in accordance with the Penn State records retention schedule.

RELATED DOCUMENTS:

Summary of rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

Penn State Arrest and Conviction self-disclosure form

State Instructions for Completing Certification to Work with Minors 

Compliance Designation Tool

CROSS REFERENCES:

 

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

BS20 - University Vehicle Operations or Use

HR11 - Affirmative Action in Employment at The Pennsylvania State University

Date Approved: 

July 1, 2022

Date Published: 

July 1, 2022

Effective Date: 

July 1, 2022