Skipping the Background Check, California? Not a Good Idea.
May 17, 2013
As an employer, it’s important to follow the proper procedure when it comes to hiring ex-offenders. Ban the box legislation has continued to spread in various cities, municipalities and states, necessitating employers to stay up-to-date on what they can and cannot do in a criminal background check. Employers should always keep in mind that even if an applicant has a criminal past, they could still qualify for the job.
However, there are positions that ex-offenders should not qualify for, due to the nature of the job. One example that may be obvious-someone who is a sex offender should not be hired to work in a school or with children. In California, many cases have been uncovered in which both sex offenders and ex-offenders have easily gained jobs as substance abuse counselors-a position that carries a higher degree of responsibility due to the nature of their relationship with clients. With that, certain criminal records should disqualify individuals from working as counselors-if a background check were completed.
Due to the fact that California is one of two states that do not require drug & alcohol counselors to have a background check in order to work as a counselor, it’s easy to see how they have slipped through unnoticed. While there are organizations that certify and register counselors, they do not require background checks, nor do counselors have to self-report if they are arrested.
According to John Hill with the senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, at least two dozen sex offenders are or were working as substance abuse counselors in the state. Hill stated,
“Some people with criminal backgrounds might be suitable to work as counselors. The point is no one is looking, seeing what the circumstances were.”
Hill found quite a few cases of counselors who were convicted of drug offenses or DUIs while they were working as counselors. Another case involved a man with over 100 counts of sex acts with children, who then became a counselor after he was released from prison. And in yet another case, a woman with a history of theft convictions stole $55,000 from a client. The investigation revealed a total of 23 registered sex offenders certified as drug and alcohol counselors-obviously, skipping the background check has proven harmful.
The end point is that a criminal past does not disqualify a candidate from being hired-but someone should be screening for criminal records to ensure that the candidate is qualified to work in the specific position. As an employer, you should always be aware that ex-offenders do deserve a chance to re-enter the workforce, but it should be in the right position. The only way to ensure you are making the smartest hiring decision is to conduct a thorough background check on all job candidates, regardless of your industry.