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Pre-Employment Criminal Background Investigation Policy and Procedures

Date: May 06, 2011


I. PURPOSE

The Illinois Campus Security Act (PA: 88-6290) mandates that public institutions of higher education shall identify “security-sensitive positions and provide for criminal background investigations prior to employing individuals in those positions. Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) and the Illinois Campus Security Act, the following procedures have been implemented to ensure compliance in the attainment, disclosure and utilization of information as a result of conducting a pre-employment criminal background investigation as a pre-requisite for employment at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Human Resource Services has been delegated the responsibility of conducting these pre-employment criminal background investigations and for maintaining a list of security sensitive positions on campus. Positions identified as “security sensitive” will normally require that a preponderance of responsibilities be involved with one or more of the categories described below.

II. POLICY

Introduction

The Campus Security Enhancement Act (110 ILCS 12/5) mandates that public institutions of higher education identify "security-sensitive positions" and provide for criminal background investigations prior to employing individuals in those positions.  Northern Illinois University, however, considers all faculty, supportive professional staff, civil service, adjunct, and extra help security sensitive positions and requires pre-employment criminal background investigations on all individuals employed in those positions.  Pre-employment criminal background investigations are also required for graduate assistant, student employment, and volunteer  positions that are designated as security sensitive under the Campus Security Enhancement Act (110 ILCS 12/1 et seq.). 

Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.), Employee Credit Privacy Act (820 ILCS 70/1 et seq.), and the Campus Security Enhancement Act (110 ILCS 12/1 et seq.), the following procedures have been implemented to ensure compliance in the attainment, disclosure, and utilization of information as a result of conducting a pre-employment criminal background investigation as a pre-requisite for employment at Northern Illinois University (NIU).  Human Resource Services (HRS) has been delegated the responsibility of conducting the pre-employment criminal background investigations and maintaining compliance with this policy.

Policy Coverage

The coverage of this policy extends to all faculty, supportive professional staff, civil service, and extra help positions. It also extends to all graduate assistant, student employment, and volunteer positions designated as a security sensitive.  Security sensitive positions include work responsibilities as defined below:

  1. The care and supervision of minor children.
  2. The safety of students, employees, or the general public.
  3. Significant expenditures or control of university financial resources.
  4. Access to confidential records.
  5. Access to secure rooms (individual offices, locker rooms, storage facilities, and campus living quarters).
  6. Cash handling.
  7. Positions Requiring a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
  8. Other job related responsibilities as deemed applicable by the university.

Pre-employment criminal background investigations will also be required for the reappointment of extra help, faculty, supportive professional, and/or civil service employees following a break in service of more than twelve (12) consecutive months. 

The extent of the pre-employment criminal background investigation will include identity verification and valid criminal convictions.  The investigation, upon request, may also include supplemental confirmations of other information including, but not limited to, verification of the applicant’s employment history, the highest degree attained, and/or credit history for specific pre-identified positions. 

Disclosure of legally protected personal information (such as medical records) is not included as part of the pre-employment criminal background investigation process under this policy.  Following completion of a pre-employment investigation, any information obtained will be considered only to the extent that the information is relevant to the job responsibilities, qualifications, fitness, and/or suitability of the employee for the position or other position-specific requirements.

All potential applicants for positions that require a pre-employment criminal background investigation must be notified that an offer of employment is contingent upon a criminal background investigation or other pre-employment investigation as early in the recruitment process as is feasible. Pre-employment criminal background investigations will be conducted by a third-party service selected by HRS and in accordance with state procurement procedures. HRS, along with the Hiring Unit, will be responsible for ensuring that all advertisements and position announcements include the following contingency language:

“Pre-employment criminal background investigation required."

An offer of employment, when extended, may not include an official start date until the criminal background investigation is complete and the candidate has been approved for hire by HRS. Departments are not authorized to allow candidates to work prior to the completion of the background investigation process absent HRS approval.  Initiation of work assignments prior to completion of the background check investigation and absent HRS approval may result in immediate termination of the employee and applicable corrective action. 

All criminal background investigations will be conducted consistent with the provisions of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, applicable state and federal laws and regulations, and the Non-Discrimination Policies of Northern Illinois University. 

Credit History Investigation

Prior to conducting a credit history investigation, the employing department must confirm that a satisfactory credit history is an established bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position and that at least one of the following criteria has been satisfied:

  • State or federal law requires bonding covering the employee;
  • The employee has unsupervised access to more than $2,500;
  • The employee has signatory power over business assets greater than $100 or more per transaction;
  • The employee is a manager who sets the direction or control of the business;
  • The employee has access to personal, confidential, financial, trade secrets, or state national security.

Approved Exceptions to Policy Coverage

Positions with Licensure Agreements:Employees seeking employment in positions that require licensure or are covered through official regulatory frameworks (e.g., DCFS regulations) shall continue to be subject to criminal background investigations through existing procedures associated with licensure agreements and will not be subjected to an additional background investigation as described by this policy.  These departments are required to provide documentation of the pre-employment investigation to HRS and to provide confirmation that the pre-employment investigation resulted in no criminal record and/or conviction. Employment of candidates with criminal records and/or convictions must be approved by HRS prior to any offer of employment. This policy exception may be suspended or withdrawn in the event that HRS cannot verify the alternative procedures.  Previous background investigations for employment outside of the university, including those from official regulatory frameworks, will not be considered sufficient to waive university background check requirements. 

Department of Public Safety:  Employment of personnel in the Department of Public Safety shall be subject to the criminal background investigation policy and procedures as adopted by the department.  The Department of Public Safety will be solely responsible for enforcement of this respective criminal background investigation process, evaluation of the investigation reports, and subsequent hiring decisions regarding respective applicants.

Pre-offer Criminal Background Investigation Authorization

If the hiring unit wishes to request authorization to conduct a pre-offer pre-employment criminal background investigation, the applicant must be provided with an Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form.  Applicants must be notified that such a pre-offer criminal background investigation may be conducted for those candidates who are considered to be finalists for the position, invited to interview, and/or offered the position.  This procedure may increase costs and search proceedings may be delayed in the event that information is received that requires verification and analysis.

Post-offer Contingency of Employment

Upon selection of a candidate for a position and prior to receipt of authorization to employ (“okay to offer") from HRS, the candidate must complete an Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form and forward it to the department.  This form must be completed in totality by the applicant and hiring unit and must be forwarded to HRS and/or the employing department for processing and review. Departments should submit the original form to HRS and should not retain a copy of the form.  For faculty and SPS positions, a copy of the candidate’s resume must also be forwarded to Human Resource Services for review and reference, if necessary, during the background investigation process.  The Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form can also be obtained from the hiring unit or HRS.

Conducting the Pre-employment Investigation

Reasonable time lines for completion and return of the form may be established by hiring departments, so long as these are consistent for all candidates and are no less than three (3) working days.  An electronic copy is sufficient to initiate the background check.  However, departments should submit the original form to HRS and should not retain a copy of the form. Upon receipt of the Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form, HRS or the employing department will request criminal and any other applicable background information from the third party vendor authorized to conduct the information verification utilizing the information contained on the form.  Depending on the position, the third party vendor will verify, including, but not limited to, the following information:

  • The identity of the applicant.
  • The existence of any criminal conviction.
  • The applicant’s employment history for a minimum of five (5) years (upon departmental request only).
  • The applicant’s highest degree attained (upon departmental request only).
  • The applicant’s credit history (upon departmental request and pre-authorization only).

Upon completion of the pre-employment criminal investigation, the third party vendor will forward the results of the investigation to HRS for review.

Conducting the Information Review

The information obtained as a result of the pre-employment criminal background investigation will be reviewed to determine authorization of employment as generally stipulated below:

Absence of criminal conviction information:
In the absence of any negative criminal conviction information, the hiring unit will be informed that no information was revealed which would preclude an offer of employment.  The Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form will be maintained by HRS.  Given the privacy information contained on the form, a copy of the form should not be maintained by the department. 

Presence of criminal conviction information:
If the pre-employment criminal background investigation results in criminal conviction information, the applicant will be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the reported information prior to any adverse employment action.  At the expiration of this period, the information will be forwarded to the Vice President of Administration, or designee, for review and employment determination if necessary.  Consultation with University Legal Services and/or the appropriate vice president, or designee, may also be required.  Any decision to exclude the candidate based on a criminal background record will take into account the nature of the criminal conviction, relevance of the conviction, qualifications, responsibilities of the position, and any supporting documentation provided by the hiring unit official(s) after the unit has been notified of a pending decision to exclude the candidate from employment in the relevant position based on the criminal background check.

Each Authorization and Consent for Release of Information form includes a box in which the applicant may elect to receive a copy of the report(s).  A copy of the report will be forwarded to the applicant only if he/she indicates such by"checking" this box unless an adverse employment decision is anticipated by HRS.  In this event, prior to an adverse employment decision, the applicant shall receive a pre-adverse employment notification, a copy of the report(s), and a copy of his/her rights under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The applicable department will have the opportunity to provide additional information with respect to the candidate’s application for employment.  The applicant shall have five (5) business days to respond to the reported information prior to the implementation of any adverse employment action by the university.  If an applicant is disqualified from employment based on the pre-employment criminal background investigation, the university reserves the right to prohibit employment of the applicant for subsequent positions at the university.  If the disqualified applicant was a candidate for a civil service position, he or she will be removed from the employment register in accordance with applicable rules of the Civil Service System and may be prohibited from future employment in subsequent positions at the university.

General Provisions

The following information pertains to the general pre-employment criminal background check policies and procedures and is made a part of this policy.

Offer of Employment No offer of employment may be extended to a candidate prior to completion of the pre-employment criminal background investigation and approval by HRS (with the exception of positions covered by regulatory licensure agreements or Public Safety exceptions, as provided for in this policy).

Effective Date of Employment Human Resource Services will promptly notify designated administrators in the event that work assignments have been initiated by the college/department prior to HRS approval to employ and will be required to take actions necessary to assure compliance with this policy. 

Fees:  Any fees associated with the pre-employment criminal background investigation process will be remitted to HRS from the respective hiring unit on a charge-back basis.  It is the department’s responsibility to ensure that the account information provided is accurate.  Inaccurate information will result in HRS defaulting the charge back to the funding associated with the position. 

Confidentiality Statement:  Any information obtained as a result of the pre-employment criminal background investigation will be considered in determining suitability for employment (in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies).  Information will be maintained on a confidential basis in HRS and may be shared with the hiring unit or applicable university officials as necessary to administer this policy pursuant to applicable provisions. 

Additional Background Investigations: Generally, findings related to pre-employment criminal background investigations will remain active during the duration of employment with the University.  However, additional background investigations may be required if:

  • There has been a break in service for more than twelve (12) consecutive months.
  • The university receives credible information that may indicate an unreported criminal conviction that would fall within the scope of this policy.
  • Upon university determination that a subsequent background investigation is necessary and related to the effective continuation of duties or new duties as assigned, or a subsequent change in positions of employment within the University is deemed to warrant such. 
  • Employee is being moved into a different position, unrelated to a promotion or increase in responsibility related to their current position, and did not previously have a background investigation. 
  • Applicants who are being considered for employment in security sensitive positions for summer camps or seasonal programs with minors will be required to undergo a background check regardless of the type of appointment.  Returning applicants are also required to complete a new background check for programs involving minors regardless of any length of absence exceeding thirty (30) days. 

Departmental Responsibility

Departments are primarily responsible for designating graduate assistant and student positions as requiring a background check based upon the criteria described in the"Positions Covered" section of this policy.  However, HRS reserves the right to review all positions for compliance with this provision and may designate positions as"security sensitive" based upon this review.  HRS cannot take responsibility for any adverse actions resulting from a hiring official and/or department’s failure to adhere to the provisions contained in this policy.

Departments are prohibited from saving applicant’s confidential information contained on the Authorization and Consent for Release of Information.  Authorization and Consent for Release of Information documents contain confidential information that is protected under the university Information Security Policies and are required to be shredded or delivered to HRS, in person, immediately following submittal of information to HRS or the background check service. 

For more information regarding this policy, contact Human Resource Services at 815-753-6000.