by Tim Sullivan
Background checks have become a standard practice in youth sports, as coach violence and sexual abuse and harassment have become more frequent (although still rare) occurrences. First and foremost, background checks are necessary as a matter of safety: discovering that a coach has been previously convicted of, for example, aggravated battery, or is a registered sex offender can help a sports league administrator and/or parents stop an incident before it occurs. Background checks are also important for league administrators to protect themselves from legal suits, such as negligent hiring claims. However, although well-done background checks can protect against legal liability, a poorly-done background check can create other legal issues.
A proper background check can protect league officials from allegations of negligent hiring, the penalties for which on average can measure in hundreds of thousands of dollars. A proper background check might follow the guidelines below, from the website www.athleticbusiness.com:
• Have a written screening policy. It should be included in any organization's policies and procedures, and communicated to everyone.
• Provide job descriptions for every position. Doing so creates boundaries for volunteers, who should be required to read, sign and date the written descriptions.
• Obtain completed application forms for all positions. Required information should include name, address, references and employers. Insist that every potential volunteer complete a form, regardless of how desperate the organization is for "warm bodies."
• Obtain a signed and dated consent form. This informs volunteers of investigations into their backgrounds and protects an organization against potential invasion-of-privacy claims by having volunteers authorize the checks.
• Review references and employer information. This helps determine whether the volunteer possesses the basic necessities for a given position.
• Interview the applicant. Develop a standard routine to save time and allow for consistency. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions.
• Conduct a criminal background check. If resources are scarce, ask local lawmakers and law-enforcement officials for help. Also consider fundraising to help pay for background checks.
• Review procedures and provide continuous oversight of volunteers. Evaluate screening results and determine what makes a particular volunteer undesirable. Document decisions, and periodically evaluate a volunteer's performance.
• Provide training for all volunteers and hold them accountable. Make volunteers pledge to uphold a code of ethics, and hold them accountable for all actions for as long as they are a part of the organization.
A background check following these guidelines should help to avoid any issues, and should any arise, establish a legal defense by showing that the league exercised due diligence. On the other hand, background checks can open the door to other legal issues, specifically, employment discrimination and invasion of privacy claims. For example, asking for someone's age before holding an interview could lead to an age-discrimination suit. Many states have laws prohibit the use of certain records in employment decisions. For example, New York limits the use of incarceration records in making hiring decisions. These laws vary by state, and league officials should review these laws in order to determine what records they can use without fear of legal consequences.
Additionally, league officials must be careful not to publicize the results of their background checks. The publication of information that portrays an applicant in a negative light, even if true, could lead to a lawsuit for defamation or an invasion of privacy. League officials must make sure that the results of their background checks remain confidential.
A proper background check is a critical component for ensuring the safety of youth sports participants. A number of private companies and not-for-profits provide background checks or offer useful assistance. Although youth sports' league officials must be careful to avoid employment discrimination or invasion of privacy claims, these should not be difficult to avoid, and more importantly, are outweighed by the need to ensure that a young athlete and parents have nothing to fear from the coaches they trust.
DISCLAIMER: this article is the research opinion of Timothy Sullivan and readers are encouraged to speak with an attorney for further clarification.
|Bellmore-Merrick Basketball League||Jan 15|
|Liverpool Youth Lacrosse||Jan 16|
|Scarsdale Parks & Recreation Department||Jan 16|
|Cortlandt American Little League||Jan 19|
|92nd Street Y||Feb 10|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Jamesville)||Feb 11|
|Kensico Little League||Feb 13|
|Nassau P.A.L. Lacrosse (Farmingdale)||Feb 26|
|Town of Ogden||Feb 26|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Tully)||Feb 27|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Camillus)||Feb 28|
|Port Dickinson Youth Association||Mar 1|
|Mechanicville-Stillwater Little League||Mar 2|
|Nassau P.A.L. Girls Lacrosse (Garden City)||Mar 2|
|Port Jervis Soapbox Derby||Mar 4|
|Watertown Parks & Recreation Department||Mar 5|
|Amherst Parks & Recreation Department||Mar 6|
|Kensico Little League||Mar 7|
|Nassau P.A.L. Lacrosse (Farmingdale)||Mar 7|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Jamesville)||Mar 7|
|St. Hugh/St. Elizabeth Baseball||Mar 11|
|Merillon Athletic Association||Mar 12|
|Town of New Castle Department of Parks and Recreation||Mar 13|
|Mahopac Sports Association||Mar 14|
|Riverhead Little League||Mar 14|
|District 34 Little League||Mar 16|
|Walton Little League||Mar 16|
|Edgemont Youth Lacrosse||Mar 19|
|Kensico Little League||Mar 20|
|Nassau PAL Lacrosse (Cold Spring Harbor)||Mar 21|
|East Side Little League||Mar 23|
|Jesse Collyer Little League||Mar 23|
|Lafayette Community Council/South Onondaga Athletic League||Mar 23|
|Colonie Little League||Mar 25|
|District 4 Little League||Mar 25|
|District 4 Little League||Mar 26|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Jordan-Elbridge)||Mar 26|
|Deposit Little League||Mar 30|
|District 8 Little League||Apr 2|
|Nassau PAL Lacrosse (King's Park)||Apr 2|
|SUNY Cortland Rec 280||Apr 2|
|East Greenbush-Castleton Little League||Apr 9|
|Town of New Castle Department of Parks and Recreation||Apr 9|
|Webster CSD Community Programs||Apr 10|
|Mahopac Sports Association||Apr 11|
|The Sandlot Sports Academy||Apr 15|
|Scarsdale Parks & Recreation Department||Apr 16|
|Bainbridge Youth Sports||Apr 17|
|West Islip Little League||Apr 17|
|Spencerport Soccer Club||May 5|
|Town of Hamlin Recreation Department||May 11|
|Monroe County Baseball Region||May 15|
|Nassau County Youth Football League||May 20|
|Upstate Lacrosse Association (Baldwinsville)||May 23|
|SCORS of Monticello||June 8|
|Nassau County Youth Football League||June 17|
|Elmira Small Fry Youth Football League||June 22|
|Fremont Area Youth Football||July 9|
|Greene Youth Football||July 11|
|Nassau County Youth Football League||July 22|
|Orange County Youth Football League (Highland Falls)||July 29|