Temporary employee, postdoc hires will undergo background checks

Beginning July 1, Iowa State will complete criminal history background checks on post-doctoral scholars (postdocs) and seasonal/temporary employees selected to fill a position. These two employee groups have been excluded from the practice, which is completed on all candidates selected for contract, faculty, merit, professional and scientific (regular and emergency), residents, interns and interim positions.

The talent acquisition team in university human resources (UHR) will manage the background checks during the hiring process the same way it does for the employee groups noted above. The cost of background checks isn't charged to the unit.

The policy change does not impact hourly graduate or undergraduate student hires. But graduating students (undergraduate or graduate) moving into temporary positions will be required to undergo a background check at the time of hire.

Why the change

Senior leaders approved the change for several reasons.

  • The current practice presents a potential liability for Iowa State. For example, an individual disqualified from a covered position for their criminal background could reapply for a temporary job with limited barriers to prevent their hire.
  • UHR reviewed peer institutions' policies on background checks for temporary/seasonal employees and postdocs. The schools included Big 12 Conference members, other land-grant institutions and the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa. Among the 23 institutions reviewed, 21 have policies that require background checks for temporary/seasonal employees and postdocs at the time of hire.
  • In January 2023, UHR removed the criminal conviction question from the employment application to comply with the federal Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act. The law also prohibits a hiring manager from asking applicants questions about their criminal history. It allows a background check to obtain this information in the hiring process.

The change was shared in an April 29 memo from UHR and the Graduate College to hiring managers. Iowa State's Employment Reference and Background Checks policy will be updated to reflect these changes.