Beginning in January 2015, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (“DHS”) will require fingerprinting and photographs as part of the background studies required for all newly-hired employees who work with children and vulnerable adults.
In May 2014, Governor Dayton signed the new fingerprinting and photographing legislation into law. The new law revises the DHS’s Background Studies Act, Minn. Stat. 245C, and goes into effect on August 1, 2014. The legislation was enacted after the DHS was awarded a $3 million federal grant to enhance its background check procedures.
The new fingerprinting requirements are part of broader changes to DHS background studies that the Department has said will speed up the hiring process, essentially eliminate “repeat” background studies, and make sure DHS is accessing the most accurate information.
There is no change in the law regarding when a background study is required or who is required to have one.
Under the amended law, current employees generally will not have to be fingerprinted. Fingerprints will only be required for individuals who otherwise need a background study.
For most programs, the changes will apply only to people who provide direct contact services when they are hired or, in some instances, change jobs within an agency. The DHS license holder or program also must conduct a new background study when an individual changes his or her legal name.
The amendments also extend from 90 to 120 days the amount of time someone can be absent from a position without needing a new background study.
The fingerprinting will be done at “livescan” locations throughout the state, and applicants will not need to go to law enforcement agencies to be fingerprinted. The electronic fingerprinting takes between five and ten minutes.
DHS expects the cost to be $10.00 to $15.00, and the law does not specify whether the employer or employee must pay the fee. Neither DHS nor the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will maintain the electronic fingerprint images.
NETStudy™ 2.0—the Web-based system that will be implementing the background studies under the amended law—will roll out in a pilot phase with small groups of providers who volunteer to participate from now through January.
DHS will also be holding stakeholder meetings at eight locations statewide to provide an overview of the changes and the timelines. A DHS timeline is available here. By August, training materials and a user manual on the new system will be available online, with training videos available in September.
DHS expects to have statewide fingerprinting locations operational and will phase in the fingerprinting and photograph processes from January 2015 through April 2015.
According to the DHS, this new system will:
- Allow people to choose to submit a background study request on themselves.
- Permit providers to immediately hire people with cleared background studies (under the new system).
- Allow providers to readily transfer people with cleared background studies across the programs that they operate and decrease related paperwork.
- Keep background studies valid by using state court information to notify DHS if a person subsequently commits a crime that is disqualifying.
- Streamline required provider screening and documentation requirements.
- Reduce the amount of time it takes for DHS to complete certain background studies.
- Eliminate, in most cases, repeating the background study determination processing on the same person.
The DHS has posted an FAQ page here.
The DHS will be required to notify the applicant and the prospective employer within three days of the background check results, or that the request needs more time to be completed.
Minnesota implemented its background study system in 1991 for employees who work with children and vulnerable adults. The department conducts more than 270,000 background studies annually.
The DHS is overhauling its background study procedures, and DHS-licensed employers will soon be required to collect fingerprints from new applicants as part of their background checks. However, the agency will provide training and is implementing the new rules in phases. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available.