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March 21, 2008 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Legally, what would you call refusal to adhere to city/government by-laws to fingerprint or background check volunteer workers? I imagine it's a fairly serious crime. Location in Canada preferably, but US examples welcome.

If an organization is required by city/provincial/whatever law to screen their volunteers/workers via background checks or fingerprinting, and the employer actually refuses to follow through on this during the hiring process and allows unscreened volunteers to work anyway, what would this be called, and what would the consequence be if reported/caught?
posted by Phire to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Civil disobedience?
posted by krautland at 7:27 PM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. Intentionally or not, a lot of the information regarding civil disobedience seems to regard it as a means of peaceful protest rather than damnable violation of the law.
posted by Phire at 7:36 PM on March 21, 2008

If its the law, its the law. They're breaking it (the law). Punishment would depend on the classification of the offense and/or a specific penalty that was established at the time of passage in case someone did break the law. It could be a fine or a citation or something worse. It really depends on how the regulation/law is written. The people who could probably provide the best answer would be the ones required to enforce it. Course, that might draw unwanted attention.
posted by Atreides at 7:59 PM on March 21, 2008

By the way, in the United States, at least, ignorance (unintentional even,) is no defense to breaking a law. You're still held responsible.
posted by Atreides at 8:00 PM on March 21, 2008

I don't know what the legal term would be, but in Australia that would be considered a 'security breach' (government organisations).
posted by Lucie at 8:12 PM on March 21, 2008

It would be helpful if you could provide a bit more context. For instance, failing to fingerprint volunteers who are cleaning up trash is probably not as big of an "OMG!" as failure to fingerprint volunteers who are taking care of children.
posted by amyms at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: Not necessarily taking care of children, but interacting with children on a regular basis in the form of workshops as part of a larger government-sponsored organization. Age ranging from toddlers to mid-teens.

Also, would the consequences change if it turns out said employer willfully overlooked a known severe past criminal record of a volunteer and subsequently withheld said information from other volunteers/organisers?
posted by Phire at 8:33 PM on March 21, 2008

Re your most recent comment: If the organization has knowingly overlooked the criminal history of someone who is working with children, it sounds like you should bring up with the employer. If they refuse to acknowledge and/or allay your concerns, then you could notify the authorities. Does this person's criminal record include crimes related to the victimization of children? If so, then definitely contact the authorities.
posted by amyms at 8:45 PM on March 21, 2008

Response by poster: This situation does not actually exist in my offline life, by the way. I abstained from explaining that this is hypothetical because I didn't want a derail, but I mainly need to know the severity and terminology of the crime for a writing project.... Sorry for the confusion (and anxiety about child abuse).
posted by Phire at 8:48 PM on March 21, 2008

If a governing entity wanted to make it a crime, they might call it something like reckless endangerment. In Washington state (the first non-wikipedia result) reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor.

I'm not sure of the difference between laws and bylaws in the scenario that you have in mind. Bylaws have always seemed more like guidelines to me. If that's the case, I would guess that it falls somewhere on the negligence/reckless continuum and might subject the negligent/reckless person to civil, but not criminal, liability. IANAL, etc.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:19 PM on March 21, 2008

Based on Googling for related news cases (in the US): probably there would be no consequences, unless somebody got hurt as a result of the failure to do the background check, in which case there would very likely be a liability lawsuit. I suppose the person responsible might be suspended or fired. Criminal prosecution for this kind of thing appears to be pretty much nonexistent (I'm waiting for the next poster to find a case and prove me wrong).
posted by phoenixy at 10:42 PM on March 21, 2008

Ditto on the reasons for asking for the background check. If they're working with children, you can call it 'civil disobedience' all you want but it's really failure to take reasonable precautions to protect those children. If there's no apparent reason other than to snag Illegal immigrants, you may be 'right' in some sense but that doesn't make it legal.
posted by mattholomew at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2008

Best answer: The punishment would be laid out in the law that proscribes the behavior. Also understand that criminal and civil liability are not mutually exclusive -- a person can be sued in civil court after (or before) being charged with a crime and (in the US) double jeopardy isn't impacted.

Note that catch-alls like "Reckless Endangerment" could/would still be used even if the screening wasn't mandated by the government if the prosecutors felt like some sort of precautions should have been taken.

That said, (re: phoenixy) the reason you don't see a lot of these cases is a) there are usually very good reasons to require the screening, so the organizations comply; b) violations of these rules are very easy to find and prove, so the cases tend to not go to trial; and c) there are rarely problems with the proof, so the cases that do go to trial don't make it to the appellate courts where they'd be picked up by WestLaw / Lexis so "searching" for them proves fruitless unless you have a lot of access to the right court records.

Just because you can't find examples of the prosecutions online doesn't mean that the law isn't being enforced.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:48 AM on March 22, 2008

It's presumably a violation of the organization's contract with the city and can lead to the termination of the contract.
posted by winston at 1:54 PM on March 22, 2008

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