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Do Fair Hiring Practices Mean Something Different to Healthcare Employers?
A nurse with a drug addiction was charged with stealing Propofol from the hospital where she worked. Personally identifiable information was stolen and sold by a hospital employee with access to patient files. At the hospital where he was employed, a patient escort sexually assaulted a patient in his care.
These crimes didn't happen at the same hospital, but these are actual cases where those healthcare employers were then asked 1) what they knew about each employee's criminal history 2) when they knew it and 3) what they chose to do with that information.
We all agree, the act of hiring is a risky one. But for healthcare employers in particular, there's more at stake.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued guidance on how employers should consider criminal conviction records. But healthcare employers specifically are wondering if they are expected to follow the best practices to a tee. Are hospitals no longer allowed to ask an applicant about criminal history on a job application? Do overburdened HR departments now have to follow-up and wait on additional supporting materials from applicants with criminal history? And then there's the unresolved issue of background check laws at the state level that may run counter to what the EEOC considers potential Title VII violations. What does this mean for healthcare employers?
Within the hiring context, a company defines its risk tolerance by way of its background screening policy. In evaluating each candidate with a criminal history, the healthcare employer is trying to determine the potential for risk to the organization. The evaluation exercise looks to the EEOC's existing guidance to consider 1) the nature and gravity of the offense(s) 2) the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and 3) the nature of the job held or sought. The less relevant the crime to the position being filled, the more likely a hire will result.
But beyond the larger argument of fair hiring practices and supporting ex-offender re-entry efforts, is there not a common expectation that hiring standards for hospital workers, just like finance workers, and childcare workers, etc. should be more rigorous? Let's first agree that this is not an argument against giving second chances to those with criminal histories. We agree that once people pay their dues to society, they will need stable jobs. Stable employment reduces the likelihood of recidivism, and that in turn contributes to more stable communities. But this is very much an argument that not every job is for every individual. The truth is, sometimes making certain mistakes results in forfeiting certain privileges, like working in a hospital with patient contact.
Fair hiring practices should not amount to placing the unfair burden of risk on employers serving vulnerable populations. That would be considered hiring practices unfair to patients, their families, and hospital staff.
Photo credit, Dita Margarita