Many jobs require background checks on applicants, including for those who would have direct contact with vulnerable adults. However, as more data on the individual is required and as technology advances, state agency policies regarding secure storage and data destruction need revision.
Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester, pictured) sponsors HF2467 that would allow the Department of Human Services to fully automate and expand the electronic background study system, and collect fingerprints as a requirement to fill certain jobs where a person would have direct contact with a vulnerable adult. It would also provide for the length of time the information would be retained and a procedure for the subject of the background check to access it.
After hearing the bill on Tuesday, the House Civil Law Committee moved it to the House Judiciary Finance and Policy Committee.
Jerry Kerber, the department’s human services inspector, said the bill would allow the department to choose a vendor to handle the collection of fingerprints and photographs, but that they would need to be transmitted securely to the department with the vendor retaining only the name, date and time of when the information was recorded and sent.
Liebling noted the “heartburn” that fingerprinting and its retention in a public system can cause people. “There is a good public policy reason to do these fingerprints; on the other hand, it comes with a lot of costs to privacy. … And yet, if we want to participate in the system and have a Cadillac safety system for our vulnerable adults served by DHS background-screened people, we may have to do that. … It highlights the dilemma we face when dealing with these issues.”
The bill would allow the subject of the background study to make a written request to the department to have the information destroyed, if, after two years, they are no longer affiliated with the DHS-sponsored program.
The commissioner would also be required to notify the background study subject and a prospective employer within three days of the study results, or that the request needs more time to be completed.