Background Checks for Psychologists, Morticians, and Massage Therapists? Oh My!

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Background checks for a construction workers? Sure.

Doctors and nurses? Of course!

Financial specialists? Definitely?

But masseurs? Real estate agents? Hairdressers? Really?

We’re certainly accustomed to background checks being conducted on employees who work for commercial businesses, medical facilities, public and private transportation, schools, and other conventional organizations, but it may also be prudent to consider screening individuals involved in other pursuits.

In fact, the state of South Carolina has already begun working on expanding the need for workers in certain professions to undergo a background check. Following the revelation that convicted serial killer Todd Kohlhepp was a state-licensed realtor, all individuals seeking real estate licenses must now pass a criminal background check.

Another South Carolina lawmaker has proposed extending the bill so hairdressers, pharmacists, psychologists, speech language pathologists, massage therapists, and medical examiners would also have to pass a background check before being granted a license to perform services in the state. Anyone receiving their initial license from 17 of the professional boards regulated by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation would need to submit to a criminal background check. Nine boards already require a background check to get licensed.

The bill cleared the House 102 – 3 but was not passed by the Senate before the State Legislature adjourned in May. It may be reconsidered when the Legislature resumes in January.

The goal is to keep the public as safe as possible. Kohlhepp, who served 14 years in prison for a sexually-motivated kidnapping, is a registered sex offender. But since a background check including a search of the sex offender registry was not at the time required to get a realtor’s license in South Carolina, these facts were not brought to light. In May, Kohlhepp confessed to having killed seven people over 13 years (none of them were his real estate clients). He was arrested after police rescued a woman he had kidnapped and kept chained in a cargo unit at his farm.

Starting in 2020, all applicants for a new or renewed real estate license in South Carolina must provide a fingerprint and pass a background check before receiving his or her license. Licensed realtors must resubmit a fingerprint every six years, which is every third time a renewal is required.

In HireRight’s 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report, 57% of Human Resource Professionals polled stated background checks provide better quality of hire, while 46% said a principal benefit of a background check is more consistent safety and security. 85% revealed they had found a lie or a misrepresentation on a resume and/or job application. And 77% said background checks uncovered an issue with a candidate that wouldn’t otherwise have been caught.

Some lawmakers in South Carolina seem to understand the importance of background checks in helping to promote safety in the workplace and in the interactions workers have with customers.  It will be interesting to see if this and other similar legislation continues to gain traction in the 2018 legislative season.

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Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a formal journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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