Is Your Company Now Required to Conduct Additional Pre-Employment Background Checks?

According to a new Maryland law, any county board of education, nonpublic school, or contracting agency hiring for positions where the employee will have direct contact with minors, must require all applicants to obtain information directly from current and previous employers regarding any incidents of child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.  While a Criminal History Background Check is still required, this law goes further in that it requires applicants to submit a written consent form authorizing current and former employers to release all records relating to child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving the applicant. Applicants must also provide a written statement as to whether they have been subject to a child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct investigation, whether they have resigned or were disciplined in relation to child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, and/or whether the applicant’s license or certification has been impacted due to an investigation of child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.

What is meant by “direct contact with minors”?

“Direct contact with minors” means the possibility of care, supervision, guidance, or control of a minor or routine interaction with a minor. There may be instances where the job responsibilities of one employee constitutes direct contact, while the job responsibilities of another employee do not, even within the same employer. In determining whether the employment history review is required, factors to consider include job responsibilities, frequency of interaction with minors and job duties.

How does the law define “Contracting Agency”?

“Contracting Agency” means an entity that contracts with a county board or nonpublic school to provide a service to a school or the students of a school. A contracting agency must conduct an employment history review at the time of initial hiring or before the employee is assigned to work for a school entity. Once complete, the employment history review for such employee will remain valid for as long as the employee continues to be employed with the hiring contracting agency.  Contracting agencies are required to inform a school entity of a potential employee’s affirmative response to questions posted in the employment history review before assigning such potential employee.

Does the law apply to nonpublic schools?

Yes, the law applies to all public and nonpublic schools. It does not distinguish between nonpublic schools that are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and those that are not.

Does the law apply to daycare centers?

According to MSDE, if a daycare program holds an approval from the Office of Child Care to operate a nursery school or if a program is registered as a church-exempt school with the MSDE, then the law would apply.

The law became effective on July 1, 2019 as Md. Code, Educ. §6-113.2. If you need help determining if your business or applicants are subject to the law, or if you have been contacted by a current or former employee to complete the required forms to comply with the law, your legal counsel can help you understand your obligations.

For questions about this article or any other Employment Law matter, please contact an attorney in our Employment Law practice area.