Faculty council amends criminal background check policy


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Those teenage legal mistakes may no longer haunt those applying for University of Iowa jobs.

During the UI Faculty Council meeting on Tuesday, the council passed the first amendments to a policy regarding criminal background checks at the point of hiring for UI employees.

The policy would allow UI Deputy Counsel James Jorgensen to look past single misdemeanor convictions that occurred in the last seven years that won’t threaten the security of the job.

“We’re fairly confident we can chalk those things up to youthful indiscretion,” he said.

This policy adaptation would lighten the workload for administrators.

“The senior [Human Resources representative] for that organization would have the discretion to do away with that phone call between central Human Resources and the General Counsel’s Office and proceed with the hiring,” Jorgensen said. “That would cut down on the administrative burden on everyone.”

Simple misdemeanors — including public intoxication, PAULA, and failure to provide proof of insurance — will not be held against candidates applying for university jobs.

The current policy doesn’t concern itself with dismissals or arrests but performs background checks on new employees working in security-sensitive positions or positions involving patient contact and access to money.

Information Technology Services, the College of Medicine, and the College of Dentistry all conduct background checks that are run by a third-party vendor — HigherRight — and take roughly 48 hours to complete.

Criminal-background checks began in 2005 for new hirings, but the adaptation of the new policy will eliminate analysis of single convictions of simple misdemeanors.  

The Faculty Council said the misdemeanors would be considered in recent, special cases in which the employee’s past would be inappropriate — such as alcohol charges for summer-camp counselors.

In the past 12 months, the UI has had roughly seven denials of employment because of information found during the background check, said Judie Hermsen, the director of administrative serves at UI Human Resources.

“It doesn’t seem to be time well-spent on a lot of these cases,” Jorgensen said.

During an era of public records, the Faculty Council hopes to look past these legal issues.

“It seems to me that we’re living in a time where there’s an increased tendency as a culture to be less forgiving to things that are criminal,” council member Katherine Tachau said.

The amended policy will be presented to the Faculty Senate at its next meeting.

“The point we’re trying to make is that we don’t want to spend time on those low-level things that are rarely relevant,” Jorgenson said.

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