If a previous employer won’t give any information about the
person’s performance, what are our options?
force a former employer to provide you with information. However, you should ask
as many questions as possible to ensure that you have explored possible avenues
of information. Make a written note of the questions asked even if there is no
response. You have fulfilled your responsibility for checking an applicant’s
references if you ask the necessary questions, even if the response is not
What should congregations do to keep secure the personnel
records of the minister, professional leadership, church staff, and
Personnel records, including applications and
reference checks, must be maintained in a locked filing system administered by
human resources or staff with similar responsibilities. Personnel files should
not be generally accessible; an individual must have authorization prior to
gaining access to another employee’s or volunteer’s file. Material such as
medical records and criminal history documents should be maintained in a locked
filing system separate from the main personnel files.
We understand that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee
requires that ministers report all criminal convictions, former or current. What
is the purpose of this rule? Should our congregation make a similar
As explained above in the Responsible
Staffing policy, a history of criminal convictions may be relevant to an
applicant’s suitability for a particular position. For instance, an individual
with a history of sexual abuse convictions would not be suitable for a
ministerial position. In some situations, a congregation could be considered
negligent and legally liable if it hired an individual with a criminal
conviction history and it did not take appropriate steps to ensure that such
conduct would not be repeated. Hence, we recommend that congregations do full
criminal conviction histories for anyone seeking a position as minister or
professional leader. In addition, each congregation should require all staff to
provide immediate notice of at least any criminal convictions, and any arrests
or institution of legal proceedings of any kind to the extent required by state
law, arising during employment.
How do we go about reference and background checks when the
person has spent significant time abroad?
The mere fact
that an individual has spent time abroad does not alter the responsibility to
conduct a review of the individual’s qualifications, performance, and conduct.
Although the resources for such review may be more limited, background checks
should be conducted using the resources reasonably available.
Are there any questions which under federal or state law
the committee cannot ask of persons for positions in
General guidelines about
impermissible areas of inquiry can be found on the website for the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission. Impermissible areas
of inquiry may involve an applicant’s status as a disabled individual (see the
EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pre-employment Disability Related Questions and
Medical Examinations) or matters such as race/color and national origin. Local
anti-discrimination agencies may also provide additional information on
permissible areas of inquiry.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.
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