Over the past several years, the General Assembly has passed a number of new laws requiring nationwide criminal background checks be conducted on employees and volunteers across a wide spectrum of job titles, and this year was no exception. Often, these new laws contain little discussion on what information is sought, who may see it, or what is to happen once such information is discovered. Omnibus legislation sponsored by Representative Edie Ajello (H 7505) aimed to clarify and bring uniformity to the background check process by stating what constitutes disqualifying information, instituting a background check process so applicants have the ability to be evaluated independently, and ensuring that no individual may be forced to pay for the privilege of their own background check. Similar legislation was considered by the House Judiciary committee in 2012, but ultimately failed to move.
Although H 7505 was not voted on before the end of the session, the General Assembly did approve other background check legislation, further expanding the number of professions which require background checks and, in many case, failing to include the type of protections sought in H 7505. Among others, the General Assembly approved legislation requiring background checks for firefighters (H 8037 as amended, S 2712A) and municipal recreation department employees and volunteers (H 7126, S 2104) that, the ACLU testified, conflicts with the state Fair Employment Practices Act and denies many qualifies individuals employment solely because of their long-distant criminal records. The General Assembly also approved legislation (H 7413, S 2652) requiring national background checks of nearly every employee of any long-term care facility in the state; this legislation, however, included some of the language requested by the ACLU to give individuals the opportunity to be evaluated on their own merit and not solely because of their criminal record.