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Member Advisory on Recent State Legislative Activity in Oregon and Pennsylvania

Brought to you by Akin Gump and NAPBS’ Government Relations Committee

Recent legislative activity in Oregon and Pennsylvania warrants the close attention of NAPBS members. As detailed below, professional background screeners and their clients may be impacted by these developments in both states.


Oregon Governor Signs “Ban the Box” Bill

On June 25 Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 3025, making Oregon the latest state to enact “ban-the-box” legislation. Beginning on January 1, 2016, an employer in Oregon may not require an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction on an employment application or at any time prior to an initial interview. If the employer does not conduct an interview, then the employer may not require the applicant to disclose a criminal conviction prior to making a conditional offer of employment.

The bill is a watered-down version from what lawmakers first proposed. The original House Bill 3025 would have prohibited employers from conducting a background check before a conditional job offer while the amended and enacted version allows them to discuss an applicant’s criminal record at an interview.   The measure passed the House in April by a 33-27 vote while the Senate approved it by a 21-8 margin in June.

The law provides exceptions:

The state’s Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries is charged with enforcement authority of the new law. Oregon joins 17 other states that have passed some version of “ban-the-box” legislation.


Pennsylvania House Measure to Narrow Background Check Mandate Unlikely to Pass Senate by July 1st  

On June 17 Pennsylvania House members overwhelmingly approved PA House Bill 1276, legislation which if passed by the senate would exempt more people who work or volunteer with children from background check requirements mandated by the Child 2014 Protective Services Law (also known as PA Act 153). The volunteer requirements under the Act become effective July 1, 2015. The act was passed in response to the child sex abuse case against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and scandals involving church clergy.

Unfortunately, the Senate is not expected to pass 1276, limiting the scope and adding clarification to who must be screened. The intent of 1276 passed by the House is to make background checks mandatory for volunteers and employees at schools, child care facilities and similar places who have direct and routine interaction with children, rather than all workers and the vast majority of volunteers. House bill 1276 also would exempt infrequent volunteers if they work near somebody who has passed the checks. 1276 was drafted and passed in the House in response to concerns about the costs and inconvenience the background checks had generated and were approved by a 180-9 vote in the House.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently took action to waive some background clearance fees for volunteers seeking to work with children. The move cut out the $10 Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance fee and also reduced the Pennsylvania State Police criminal record check from $10 to $8 starting July 25. The $27.50 FBI criminal background check for anyone who has not been a Pennsylvania resident for at least 10 years will remain unchanged.

NAPBS continues to monitor the legislation and look for opportunities to support an amendment which would allow for screening to be completed by consumer reporting agencies.

For specific questions regarding either of the above consultation with qualified legal counsel in all matters of employment law is strongly encouraged.