It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.
When a parent or other elderly relative enters a nursing home, you trust that the people responsible for providing care at the facility are of good character. The last thing you want is to find the nursing home employed individuals with a criminal record who later took advantage of, or even seriously injured, your loved one. Fortunately, Ohio law imposes certain criminal background check requirements on all persons hired to provide direct care in nursing facilities.
Specifically, Ohio Revised Code 3721.121 states that the “chief administrator” of any licensed nursing home or adult day-care program must request a criminal background check from the State of Ohio for any new job applicant. If the applicant has not lived in Ohio full-time during the five years preceding his or her job application, the nursing home must request a background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (The nursing home may still choose to ask for an FBI check even if the person has lived in Ohio for five years.)
It is worth noting that the law does not require criminal background checks for all persons who may work in a nursing home. An “applicant” is defined by law as someone “under final consideration for employment” in a full- or part-time position that “involves providing direct care to an older adult.” This definition excludes individuals who work as unpaid volunteers.
A nursing home also does not have to wait until it receives the results of a criminal background check before allowing the applicant to work. The law permits “conditional” employment of an applicant pending a background check. But the nursing home must request the background check within five business days of the conditional employee starting work.
As you might imagine, if the background check reveals the applicant has a criminal record, the nursing home must terminate employment. To be more precise, the law specifies which types of criminal convictions are disqualifying. They include most of the more serious categories of crimes: homicide and assault, sex offenses, arson, theft, fraud, and certain drug offenses.
Nursing Homes May Escape Liability for Employing Ex Convicts
So what happens when a nursing home resident is injured (or killed) as the result of an employee with a prior criminal record? Ohio law protects the nursing home from liability if it “employed the individual in good faith and reasonable reliance on the report of a criminal records check.” This includes people employed “in good faith on a conditional basis” before the nursing home receives the results of a background check. In either case, the victim or their families cannot prove negligence “solely” based on the nursing home’s decision to employ such a person.
That being said, the victim or their families can still take action to show that the nursing home was negligent otherwise in allowing the abuse to occur, and pursue damages in a civil case. Because this area of law is so complex, victims and their families are encouraged to speak with an experienced attorney immediately.
How We Can Help
If you have additional questions or concerns about the law in this area, contact the experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 today. Our elder abuse lawyers serve clients in Cleveland, Lakewood, Elyria, Chardon, Sandusky and surrounding areas.