Hiring: Considering Background Check Results

Numerous laws apply to the hiring process and to background checks.

Whether the offense was a minor one from years ago or something more recent, discovery of an entry on a criminal background check may be the beginning of an inquiry, not necessarily the end.

Rely on Proven Criteria

Assuming you have already conducted interviews and reference checks, and the candidate seems to be qualified for the position, a criminal background check is an excellent tool in the decision-making process.

A good rule for evaluating the significance of records in a criminal background check is to rely on the same criteria used by the local public school system. If the public school system would be prohibited from employing that person, then your ministry would do well to avoid hiring or allowing him or her to volunteer in certain ministries. You can find out what criteria are used by contacting your local public school system directly, or by enlisting the help of an attorney.

An attorney can:

  • Review state laws that spell out what type of criminal record would prevent an individual from working in a public school.
  • Review the information you've obtained about the candidate’s criminal record.
  • Give you a written opinion on whether the individual would be permitted to work in a public school in your state.

For Consideration

Even when a job candidate or volunteer would qualify to work in a public school, the evaluation shouldn’t stop there. Take steps to balance the protection of the people your ministry serves with the benefits of hiring this candidate.

Some things to consider:

  • Is the candidate the same person as the offender from the background check? Depending on how your background check is performed, you may need to verify that identities match.
  • What was the specific act involved in the offense?
  • When did the offense occur?
  • Was it an isolated incident or a pattern?
  • How serious was the offense?
  • Who was the victim (e.g., child, youth, vulnerable adult, other adult) and how were they affected?
  • Was there a conviction or an acquittal?
  • How does it relate to the job in question?
  • What is the church attorney’s opinion?

Learn the Law

Numerous laws apply to the hiring process and to background checks. On one hand, several states have laws requiring criminal background checks for anyone who provides care for children. On the other hand, there are federal and state laws limiting the ability of employers to eliminate a job candidate based solely on a criminal record.

In the end, a hiring decision should come down to how the criminal history or conviction relates to the job or responsibilities in question.

It requires a delicate balance to protect your ministry against potential harm while helping someone with a criminal background make positive contributions. With the right tools, you can make a conscious, informed decision regarding employment offers and the appointment of volunteers.