Criminal background checks at all-time high in Rhode Island

A criminal record can be haunting to a Rhode Island resident. From nursing home staffers to school volunteers, more and more occupations and positions are subject to either a federal or state background check. Next year, East Greenwich Representative Anthony Giarrusso will introduce legislation to require federal background checks for school bus monitors in the state. Previously schools were only required to run state background checks on applicants.

Background checks are meant to help employers protect vulnerable populations such as children, disabled individuals and the elderly. Employers are not just using background checks for applicants seeking jobs with access to vulnerable populations, however. Private sector employees are increasingly screening potential employees when they first apply for a position. Some of these jobs are not necessarily an obvious candidate for a background check requirement. However, running such a check gives employers a sense of security when hiring a new employee.

The Rhode Island Bureau of Criminal Identification conducts an average of more than 310 background checks per day. In 2013, the BCI Unit generated $370,104 in background check fees. Beginning January 1, 2014, state law will ban employers from automatically disqualifying someone for a job based solely on a criminal record. However, an employee can still refuse to hire an applicant based on the overall application, including criminal history. An employee simply cannot exclude a prospective employee unless the crime at issue is "job related and consistent with business necessity."

Background check procedure

Conducting a state background check is inexpensive for an employer, costing only a minimal fee and the BCI a few minutes to complete. Even using the FBI's finger database takes only about 20 minutes to complete.

If a potential applicant does have a criminal history that disqualifies them from obtaining a position, the BCI notifies the employer. The BCI does not indicate specifics about a person's criminal, merely that he or she is disqualified. For some positions a person can become eligible for the position if the prospective employee notifies the employer about the specific offense.

Preventing criminal records

Under Rhode Island law, a number of convictions may result in disqualification from a certain position. Larceny, murder and sex offenses can severely limit job prospects and can lead to residency restrictions. For people in Rhode Island accused of criminal activity, fighting those charges can mean the difference not just in freedom but also in job prospects in the future. People facing criminal charges should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss their legal rights and options.