A new Georgian law requires nursing homes and other caregivers to undergo extensive background checks. The Georgia Back-Term Care Background Check program will go into effect October 1st. Georgia joins the majority of other states requiring improved satisfactory background exams for nurses.

The new law, signed by Governor Nathan Deal on May 7, 2018, aims to promote public safety for a growing and vulnerable aging population. Reports of abuse of the elderly have increased in recent years as the elderly population grows. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s investigations into abuse of elders and adults with disabilities have increased 145 percent over the past five years, according to the agency.

The new law, codified in OCGA sections 31-7-350 ff., Requires caregivers with direct access to the elderly in long-term care facilities to pass a national background check. A new fingerprint requirement is expected to go into effect in January 2021 to give employers time to conduct more extensive background checks on current workers.

The new law applies to owners, job applicants and employees who look after or own a nursing home, assisted living community, private home care provider, home health department, hospice care, nursing home, qualified care facility or daycare center for adults.

Currently, caretakers in Georgia only need to undergo a name-based background check limited to crimes committed in Georgia. This offers limited protection at best; Information about a person from another state with a criminal history or using an assumed name would not be revealed. The expanded background check requirement would include a more comprehensive review of the FBI database, state and national criminal records databases, the nurses registry, and the state sex offender registry and other registries.

Terms defined

Under the new law, “direct access” means having or expecting duties that involve routine personal contact with a patient, resident or customer. Direct access includes face-to-face contact, hands-on physical assistance, verbal cues, reminders, standby or supervisory activities that routinely require the individual to be alone with, or access to, patient, resident or client property B. the patient, resident, or customer’s checkbook, debit and credit cards, resident trust funds, bank records, stock accounts, or brokerage accounts.

Further, “employee” means any person who has direct access and is hired by an institution through employment or a contract with such an institution, including, but not limited to, housekeepers, maintenance personnel, dietitians and any volunteer who has duties related to the Correspond to the duties of an employee who provides such services. State-approved doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists are exempt from this definition. Also excluded from the mandatory background check are people who enter into a contract with an institution (personally or through a company) to cover utilities, construction, communications, accounting, quality assurance, human resource management, information technology, legal or other Provide services that are not directly related Provide services to a patient, resident or customer of the facility. Families (spouses, parents, siblings or grandparents) and guardians of the elderly (65 years and over) who wish to use personal care services have the same access to a central government care register for determining the employment of caregivers as licensed institutions.

Violations

Penalties for violations can range from fines to revoking a license. Failure to comply with the new law will result in facility being held liable for civil fines of $ 500 for each day of violation (up to $ 10,000). Exposure for an entity begins from the time the entity knew, or should have known, that it was employing a criminal record to the date that such individual’s employment is terminated.

Next Steps

Insured Georgian employers in the care sector should comply with the new law and ensure that:

  • Every application form made available to an applicant by a covered facility states conspicuously: For this type of employment, state law requires a national and state background check as an employment condition.
  • The personnel records for the companies concerned may contain evidence of the satisfactory determination of each employee, the registration check and the license check.

Emily S. Borna and Todd Van Dyke are attorneys with Jackson Lewis in Atlanta. © 2019 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.