Criminal Record Disclosure and Effects on California Nursing Home Services

A recent article in Reuters reported that the mayor of Los Angeles has declared his support for “a new state law barring public agencies from refusing job applications from people convicted of a crime.”  But could such a law place residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities at greater risk of nursing home abuse and neglect?

Old Guy

No Outright Criminal Background Checks for Employees?

The California law isn’t intended to put California residents at risk, but rather to encourage social rehabilitation.  According to Reuters, Garcetti’s support of the law comes with a deep concern “that millions of people who have been to prison, particularly from minority communities, have little prospect of landing a job once they admit to a conviction.”  The law isn’t just for nursing homes or other care facilities for older adults.  Rather, it’s part of a larger movement to make criminal background checks less of a priority at the start of an interviewing process at many public agencies across the state of California.

Garcetti emphasized that he, like other advocates, don’t want to “prejudge somebody who might turn out to be the best employee in the entire department.”  The law goes into effect in July.

What will the law mean in practice?  In short, it will prevent state and local governments in California from asking about a potential employee’s criminal record when she or he fills out an initial employment application.  However, employers will be able to ask about criminal backgrounds at a later stage of the employment process.  As such, the law aims to prevent potential employees from being rejected for a position at the outset simply because of a criminal record.  Instead, the law hopes to give qualified applicants a “foot in the door” before they must disclose evidence of a criminal history.

When it comes to nursing facilities, elder care advocates worry that the new California law will create a slippery slope that fails to adequately take into account the risks that nursing home residents can face when employees aren’t up to snuff.  Specifically, there’s a new bill that’s currently “making its way through the California Legislature,” and is intend to “eliminate a prohibition against certifying people as nurse’s aides if they have been convicted of felonies, including murder, extortion and sex crimes.”

New California Bill Could Put Elderly Residents at Risk

Similar to the new law that will go into effect next month in California, the bill is “meant to require the state to look beyond the conviction to see if someone has been rehabilitated,” according to Charles Stewart.  Stewart is a spokesperson for Holly Mitchell, the author of the bill.

Yet some members of the California Senate worry that the new bill could end up exposing elderly nursing home residents to employees with dangerous criminal backgrounds.  The topic is a particularly sensitive one in our state, given the myriad problems that have surfaced recently concerning elder abuse in assisted living facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs).

Peter DeMarco, a spokesperson for Republicans in the Senate, argued against the bill, explaining, “you’re talking about people who are working in nursing homes, one of the main points of daily contact for our parents and grandparents.”  Indeed, DeMarco emphasized that, in California, “there’s certainly been no shortage of reports of abuse by people in similar situations.”

Do you have an elderly loved one who is currently in the care of a nursing home or assisted-living facility in Southern California?  While many older adults receive caring and competent attention at these facilities, nursing abuse and nursing home neglect happens to often.  If you are concerned that your parent has been the victim of elder abuse, you should contact a San Diego nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography via Compfight cc

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