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Importance of Background Checks for Nursing Home Employees

Background checks can help prevent neglect and abuse

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Alabama play a critical role in caring for vulnerable residents, particularly the elderly. Given the importance of their responsibilities, stringent regulations govern the hiring of nursing home employees to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. This becomes even more crucial in the context of preventing nursing home neglect or abuse.

It also raises questions about the necessity of background checks for those entrusted with resident care. What are the state's requirements in this regard? What exactly does a nursing home employee background check involve? And what repercussions do nursing homes face for failing to adhere to employment background check protocols in Alabama?

At Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C., our legal team is dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of nursing home residents. If you suspect your loved one's safety has been compromised or have concerns about negligence, contact us right away to see how an experienced Birmingham, Alabama nursing home neglect lawyer can help you demand justice and accountability.

What is a background check?

Prior to hiring employees, many companies opt to perform background checks. This precautionary measure aims to ensure that prospective job applicants seeking positions have no prior history of causing harm or posing a potential risk to fellow employees or individuals they may interact with upon employment.

This concern is particularly critical for nursing home employees who hold the responsibility of caring for vulnerable older adults, making the vetting process a vital part of maintaining a safe environment for residents.

When nursing homes fail to conduct thorough and proper background checks on their employees, they jeopardize the safety and well-being of their residents. This neglectful oversight can result in situations of abuse, neglect, and harm to the very individuals they are meant to care for.

What’s included in a background check?

Background screenings are comprehensive processes that include the review of a job applicant's vital information, such as:

  • Criminal history, including whether someone has been charged and convicted of a Misdemeanor or Felony.
  • Previous employment history.
  • Other public records, including whether someone has a valid driver’s license—a crucial detail if the prospective employee's responsibilities entail driving.
  • Driving history, including whether the job applicant has been charged and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI).

What is a Level 2 background check?

The term "Level 2 background check" refers to a comprehensive screening process commonly employed for prospective job applicants. Typically, a Level 2 background check involves a thorough examination of both state and federal criminal records. This includes scrutinizing an individual's history of arrests and convictions, in addition to identifying any ongoing legal proceedings.

Are nursing homes required to do background checks in Alabama?

In certain instances, no. Alabama is among 10 states nationwide where individuals applying for nursing home positions are not mandated to undergo criminal background checks. This situation raises the possibility that individuals with criminal records could potentially be responsible for the care of your loved ones in Alabama nursing homes.

It’s also important to note there is no federal law requiring nursing home facilities to conduct background checks. Consequently, the rules and regulations governing nursing homes vary widely from one state to another.

However, it is worth noting that, for reasons related to liability, most nursing homes in Alabama opt to conduct criminal background checks for all potential employees. This measure serves to shield them from potential legal responsibility if a nursing home resident faces harm at the hands of an employee.

Which nursing home employees must undergo background checks?

The regulations governing background checks in Alabama are detailed in Alabama Code, Title 38, Chapter 13, officially known as “Criminal Background Checks On Persons Responsible for Children, Elderly, and Disabled.” Specific candidates applying for nursing home positions in Alabama are mandated to undergo background checks, including:

  • Nurses
  • Doctors
  • Pharmacists
  • Other healthcare professionals

Additionally, as part of obtaining a license to practice as a healthcare professional in Alabama, many state licensing boards incorporate background checks into the licensing procedure. This applies to:

  • Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, responsible for conducting background checks for doctors seeking medical licensure in the state.
  • Alabama Board of Nursing, conducting background checks for those aspiring to be licensed registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
  • Alabama Board of Pharmacy (ABOP), requiring background checks for licensing pharmacists.

Nevertheless, some exceptions exist within Alabama Code, Title 38, Chapter 13. Exemptions include healthcare job applicants aiming for positions at adult care facilities that are “exempt from Department of Human Resources licensing,” as specified in Alabama Code, Title 38, Chapter 13, Section 38-13-3 (d). For such applicants, a criminal background check is not mandatory for working in nursing homes.

Do Alabama nursing homes employ workers with a criminal record?

A nationwide study by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General revealed that almost “all nursing facilities employed one or more individuals with at least one criminal conviction.” Specifically, the same study found that 92 percent of nursing home facilities have at least one employee with a criminal conviction, while “nearly half of nursing facilities employed five or more individuals with at least one conviction,” as outlined in the study.

How far back do nursing home background checks go?

Typically, criminal background checks for individuals seeking employment at Alabama nursing homes focus on the preceding seven (7) years of their history. This time frame is established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that oversees such checks.

Criminal background checks in Alabama do not have a set expiration date for felony convictions unless those convictions have been expunged, meaning they've been removed from the individual's criminal record. In essence, this implies that even felony convictions from 10 or 20 years ago are likely to appear on most criminal background checks conducted in Alabama.

Who conducts nursing home background checks in Alabama?

Many nursing homes in Alabama enlist the services of third-party companies to perform background checks on potential employees. These companies frequently obtain data from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which was established in 2015 through the consolidation of 12 law enforcement agencies within the state.

The repository for this information is known as the Alabama Background Check System, more commonly referred to as ABC. This comprehensive database includes fingerprint records, criminal convictions, and additional court-related information that is typically part of background check assessments.

What are the penalties for nursing homes that don’t conduct background checks?

Violations of Alabama Code, Title 38, Chapter 13 are categorized as Class A Misdemeanors within the state. Consequently, nursing homes found in violation of this statute may face fines of up to $6,000, and individuals can potentially be subject to jail for up to one year. Similarly, these penalties extend to those who provide false information on their job applications when seeking positions at nursing homes.

Talk to an attorney who holds negligent nursing facilities accountable

Conducting thorough background checks for individuals applying to work in nursing facilities is critical in preventing nursing home neglect and abuse. By implementing rigorous background checks, nursing homes can significantly mitigate the risk of hiring individuals with a history of violence, abuse, or other criminal behaviors.

Ultimately, conducting background checks is a critical step in upholding the well-being and safety of nursing home residents. Unfortunately, some cases of nursing home neglect or abuse occur due to inadequate employee screenings.

Attorney Perry Shuttlesworth and his dedicated legal team are steadfast advocates for nursing home residents and their families. With a deep understanding of the importance of proper employee background checks, our law firm works diligently to hold nursing homes accountable for their negligence.

If you suspect your loved one has suffered due to neglect or abuse in an Alabama nursing home, you need a lawyer who can provide compassionate support and fight for your loved one’s rights. To see how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today to discuss your situation and explore your legal options during a free case evaluation.

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