Nursing Home Neglect and
Assisted Living Abuse Lawyer
Atlanta & All Of Georgia

Background Check Requirements for Georgia Nursing Homes

Elder care facilities must follow the law to protect residents

Nursing home owners, directors, and staff have an incredibly important responsibility: they are entrusted with caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Background checks play a critical role in ensuring that staff with access to nursing home residents do not have a history of criminal or abusive behavior. However, background checks aren’t perfect, and facilities that cut corners can put residents at risk of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Georgia law sets stringent background check requirements for employees of nursing homes and other elder care facilities. However, facilities don’t always follow the law, and residents end up paying the price. At Johnson Greer Law Group in Decatur, GA, our attorneys work to hold them accountable.

Which nursing home employees have to be background checked?

Georgia’s Long-Term Care Background Check Program, which went into effect in 2019, sets background check standards for two categories of nursing home employees: owners and direct access employees.

For purposes of the background check program, an “owner” is someone who is actively involved in the management and operations of the facility itself, such as making staffing and budget decisions. In other words, a mere passive investor doesn’t have to pass a background check, but an owner who is actively involved in running the facility does.

The “direct access employees” category includes any employee or contractor whose duties involve physical contact with residents, which may include face-to-face contact, monitoring, verbal cueing, reminding, and hands-on physical assistance. “Direct access employees” also include those with access to residents’ property or financial information. Examples of such employees include:

  • Administrators
  • Directors
  • Managers
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNA)
  • Housekeepers
  • Meal delivery staff
  • Maintenance staff
  • Nutritionists
  • Administrative staff with access to residents’ financial information
  • Volunteers who perform any of the above duties

Licensed healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are not covered by the background check law because they need to undergo other background check procedures to maintain their professional licenses. However, the facility must verify that their professional license is in good standing.

What do nursing home background checks entail?

Under Georgia law, nursing homes must have background checks conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The process includes:

  • Mandatory fingerprinting
  • An application using the Georgia Criminal History Check System (GCHEXS)
  • Electronic submission of the fingerprints through the Georgia Applicant Processing System (GAPS)
  • Processing by the Georgia Crime Information Center and FBI
  • Review by the Georgia Department of Community Health Office of Inspector General

The facility must also conduct a separate “registry check” for each employee, including the state’s nurse aid registry, the state sexual offender registry, and the Federal Office of Inspector General exclusions list. For employees who have recently moved to Georgia, the facility must conduct a registry check in each state in which the employee resided for the previous two years.

If the Georgia Department of Community Health finds a background check “unsatisfactory,” or if an individual fails a registry check, the facility must fire (or not hire) that employee.

Can a nursing home employee work without a background check?

Only under very limited circumstances can a nursing home employee work without a background check. Facilities are permitted to let staff work while the background check is pending for up to 30 days, as long as the staff member is under the direct supervision of another staff member who has already passed a background check. This grace period does not apply to administrators, directors, or onsite managers, and the facility must obtain a criminal background check before letting the individual start work.

Can nursing homes hire people with criminal records?

Under Georgia law, certain criminal convictions disqualify individuals from working in nursing homes, most of which are felonies. In general, the individual is no longer disqualified if their sentence was completed more than 10 years before the background check was conducted. However, certain crimes are permanently disqualifying, including:

  • Human trafficking
  • Neglect of an elderly or disabled person
  • Exploitation or intimidation of an elderly or disabled person
  • Felony aggravated assault or aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer

How background checks can affect lawsuits against nursing homes

If a nursing home fails to conduct a background check as required by law, and if their failure to do so leads to abuse or neglect of a resident, they can be held liable (legally responsible) for negligent hiring. If the background check had turned up red flags that would have prevented the nursing home from hiring that person, then an attorney for the resident could have connected the dots between the hiring decision and the harm suffered by the resident.

On the other hand, if a nursing home does conduct a background check and relies in good faith on the background check results, the law provides a limited degree of immunity for claims of negligent hiring based on the employee’s criminal record. The law also provides a presumption that the nursing home exercised due care in hiring that person, which would protect them from liability for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and similar claims. However, that presumption is rebuttable; the resident and their attorney can introduce evidence that even with a satisfactory background check, the nursing home still failed to exercise due care in the hiring process in some other way.

In addition, the background check only goes so far. Even if an employee passes a background check upon hiring, nursing homes are still responsible for training and supervising their employees to ensure that no new issues emerge during that person’s employment. Otherwise, they can be found responsible for negligent retention (that is, failure to discharge an employee known to be dangerous) or other forms of negligence that contributed to abuse or neglect.

Our attorneys hold negligent nursing homes accountable

Background checks for employees are just one of a nursing home’s many responsibilities to its residents. Nursing homes need to maintain sufficient staffing levels to provide safe, reliable care; ensure residents receive the assistance they need with meals and activities of daily living; administer medications and monitor residents for medical issues; and respond promptly to choking incidents, falls, and other emergencies. When they fail to meet that responsibility, residents can be seriously injured or killed.

Nursing home residents and their families have rights under Georgia law, but the law isn’t self-executing. You need to take action to pursue accountability and justice for your family. Pursuing financial compensation through a claim or lawsuit for nursing home abuse and neglect helps families move forward. It also sends a strong message to negligent facilities and helps to protect other families from suffering.

If your loved one was abused or neglected in a Georgia nursing home, our lawyers would be honored to listen to your story and explain your potential legal options. Give us a call or contact us online for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “Background Check Requirements for Georgia Nursing Homes.”

    Free Consultation
    We Look Forward To Speaking With You.

    Free ConsultationClick Here