Background checks and screening for nonprofit organizations may mean different things to different organizations. For example, some nonprofits may limit themselves to screening for sex offenders, while others may not hire anyone with a significant criminal background. Other background checks and screening types might include credit checks, driving histories, reference checks, and prior job verifications. In many cases, the position that a prospective employee or volunteer fills will determine the scope and extent of the necessary background check and screening tools.
- Criminal background checks may require searches in more than one database.
Some states have established local or statewide databases to check for criminal cases involving an applicant. All states have sex offender registries where you can check for certain sex-related criminal convictions, such as the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s sex offender database. However, limiting your criminal background check to one state may easily overlook an extensive criminal history for a person in another state. Accessing information from other states, especially if you aren’t sure where the person lived at all times, can be more challenging. As a result, nonprofits may want to consider using third-party private background screening companies to ensure complete access to all criminal records.
- Criminal background checks may differ according to the position being filled.
Your nonprofit organization also should establish policies about what level of past criminal activity or records are acceptable. For example, if you are hiring for a position involving handling money, your standards may differ from hiring a volunteer to answer the phone. Likewise, if you hire someone who will be driving and covered under your organization’s automobile insurance, you should be checking for driving-related traffic or criminal offenses. You should clearly define the parameters of each position in terms of whether a criminal history precludes a person from serving in that role.
- Hiring a person with a Certificate of Second Chance can limit your organization’s liability in some instances.
A.R.S. § 13-905, which became effective in August 2021, allows individuals to set aside some criminal convictions after completing their probation or other conditions of their sentences. They then receive a Certificate of Second Chance, which allows them to receive some occupational licenses if otherwise qualified. Before this law went into effect, people with these convictions might have been unable to get occupational licenses due to their criminal convictions. In exchange for hiring these individuals, the law offers employers limited liability if they are later facing a lawsuit concerning the employee’s alleged wrongdoing under some circumstances.
- Using online searches and social media information to screen candidates may be risky.
While it may seem perfectly normal and innocent to screen prospective employees and volunteers for online activity, particularly in the social media arena, it can lead to you discovering information that you might otherwise not be able to access. You also may learn information that you cannot rely on in making your hiring decisions, such as family status, race, gender, or medical conditions. Improperly relying on this information can lead to discrimination suits that cause unwanted attention, litigation, and expenses for your nonprofit organization.
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The attorneys and staff at Provident Law have years of experience in advising churches and other religious organizations about tax laws and other federal and state laws that affect their operations. We can evaluate your situation, present your options, and help you make the right decisions for you. Call us today at (480) 388-3343 and learn more about how we can help.