On March 18, 2022, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed nineteen bills into law, including, most notably for nursing home and assisted living facility employers, Senate Bill (SB) 1242, which strengthens employee background checks.
In his press release, Governor Ducey explained that Arizona’s “nursing homes and assisted living facilities deserve accountability and leadership from their supervisors” and that “seniors—grandmothers, grandfathers and family members—deserve nothing less to ensure their safety, happiness and health.” Specifically, SB 1242 enhances the process for employees to become licensed through the Arizona Board of Examiners of Nursing Care Institution Administrators and Assisted Living Facility Managers (NCIA).
Generally, under Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-411, residential care institutions, nursing care institutions, and home health agencies must require their staff members to obtain valid fingerprint clearance cards. Examples of individuals at residential care and nursing care institutions (unless directly contracted by a resident) who must obtain fingerprint clearance include:
- “Registered nurses, practical nurses, nursing assistants, and caregivers employed by the facility
- Physical therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists and therapy staff
- Massage therapists
- Social workers
- Activity staff in nursing care institutions
- Persons having a contract with the facility to provide direct care, such as registered nurses, practical nurses, nursing assistants, caregivers, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, therapy staff, and massage therapists”
In addition to the existing fingerprint clearance requirements, SB 1242 imposes two new, stricter requirements:
First, the new law prohibits people with felony convictions involving “violence or financial fraud” from obtaining fingerprint clearance and becoming licensed to work in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. SB 1242 enumerates forty-six specific crimes that constitute “violence or financial fraud,” including “sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult,” “sexual assault,” “child abuse,” “neglect or abuse of a vulnerable adult,” “theft,” “forgery,” and “fraudulent use of a credit card.”
Second, SB 1242 states that the NCIA Board “shall require each applicant for initial [NCIA] certification to submit a full set of fingerprints to the Board for a state and federal criminal history records check pursuant to Section 41-1750 and Public Law 92-544.” Additionally, “[t]he [Arizona] Department of Public Safety may exchange this fingerprint data with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” This new background check process is intended to more thoroughly vet employees and quickly identify and refer complaints between agencies.
In light of these new requirements, healthcare employers—specifically nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities—may want to review and update their hiring requirements involving fingerprinting and background checks.