A N A C T
RELATING TO MENTAL HEALTH, RETARDATION AND HOSPITALS
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Title 40.1 of the General Laws entitled "Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals" is hereby amended by adding thereto the following chapter:
EMPLOYEE CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECK
40.1-25.1-1. Purpose. -- In order to provide protection for persons residing in or receiving services from facilities, programs or agencies licensed, funded and/or operated by the department of mental health, retardation and hospitals, all persons eighteen (18) years or older seeking employment in any facility or program licensed, funded and/or operated by the department shall be required to undergo a national criminal background check for the purpose of determining whether the prospective employee has been convicted of a crime that bears upon his or her fitness to have the responsibility for the safety and well-being of persons residing in or receiving services from facilities, programs or agencies licensed, funded and/or operated by the department.
40.1-25.1-2. Definitions. -- For purposes of this chapter: (1) "Agency" means any person or organization which provides day program services, residential services, support services or advocacy services for persons with developmental disabilities, persons who are mentally ill and persons who are substance abusers and which is licensed by the department of mental health, retardation and hospitals pursuant to section 40.1-24-1 et seq.
(2) "Applicant for employment" shall mean a person over the age of eighteen (18) who has applied for and been offered employment in a facility, program or agency licensed, funded and/or operated by the department.
(3) "Department" means the department of mental health, retardation and hospitals.
(4) "Director" means the director of the department of mental health, retardation and hospitals or the designee of the director.
(5) "Employer" means any facility, program or agency licensed and/or funded by the department of mental health, retardation and hospitals and shall mean the department when the facility or program is operated by the department.
(6) "Facility" means any community residence, day treatment program, rehabilitation program, public or private, excluding hospitals, except for the Eleanor Slater Hospital, providing program services which do not constitute medical or custodial care but do offer rehabilitation, habilitation, psychological support and social guidance.
(7) "Program" means a planned service delivery system structured to provide specific components which are responsive to the needs of those served.
40.1-25.1-3. Criminal records check requirement. -- (a) Any facility or program licensed by the department pursuant to section 40.1-24-1 et seq. and any facility or program operated by the department shall require all applicants for employment, if that employment involves routine contact with patients, residents or clients without the presence of other employees, to apply to the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department for a nationwide criminal records check. The check will conform to the applicable federal standards, including the taking of fingerprints of the applicant.
(b) If any disqualifying information is discovered with respect to the applicant, the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department will inform the employer in writing, without disclosing the nature of the disqualifying information, that an item of disqualifying nature has been discovered. In addition, the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department will inform the applicant in writing of the nature of the disqualifying information. An applicant against whom disqualifying information has been found may request that a copy of the criminal background report be sent to the employer who shall make a judgment regarding the employment of the applicant.
(c) In those situations in which no disqualifying information has been found, the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department shall inform both the applicant and the employer of this fact.
(d) The employer will maintain on file, subject to investigation by the department, evidence that criminal records checks in accordance with this statute have been initiated on all employees seeking employment after August 1, 2001 and the results of the checks. Failure to maintain the evidence on file will be prima facie grounds to revoke the license or certification of the operator of any facility or program licensed or certified by the department.
(e) It shall be the responsibility of the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department to conduct the national criminal records check for the applicant.
40.1-25.1-4. Prior criminal records check. -- If an applicant has undergone a national criminal records check within eighteen (18) months of an application for employment, then an employer may request from the bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police, a letter indicating if any disqualifying information was discovered. The bureau of criminal identification of the state police or the local police department shall respond without disclosing the nature of any disqualifying information. The letter shall be maintained on file to satisfy the requirements of this chapter.
40.1-25.1-5. Destruction of fingerprint records. -- At the conclusion of any background check required by this chapter, the state police or the local police department will promptly destroy the fingerprint card of the applicant.
40.1-25.1-6. Rules and regulations. -- The director shall promulgate rules and regulations to carry out the intent of this chapter. The rules shall specify the types of jobs and positions which would require national criminal background checks and the rules shall specify those items of information appearing on a criminal records check which constitute disqualifying information because that information would indicate that the employment could endanger the health or welfare of patients, clients or residents. The rules and regulations shall specify that the department shall bear the responsibility for the cost of the national background checks. In doing so, the department shall consider and seek all possible avenues of reimbursement for these background checks. In no event shall the provider, the state or local police department or the applicant be responsible for any portion of the cost of the national background check.
40.1-25.1-7. Immunity from liability. -- No employer who disqualifies an individual from employment because of the receipt of a notice of disqualifying information pursuant to this chapter shall be liable for civil damages or subject to any claim, cause of action or proceeding of any nature as a result of such disqualification.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect 180 days after passage.