Volunteering, Legal Aspects and Pitfalls.
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Legal Aspects

Legalities prevade every aspect of life in post-industrial society; volunteering and amateur radio emergency communication are no different. 

Privacy

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Letter, volume 25, number 43 of October 27, 2006, contained a warning to the 160,000 amateur radio operators the League represents. ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN caution the members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), to be aware that when the Red Cross asks ham volunteers to submit to a "routine criminal background check." Contained within the release hams are being required to sign before they as members of ARES can help the Red Cross is an authorization to have the ham's credit and lifestyle monitored by the Red Cross. Red Cross says it must perform it's due dilgence to ensure it has no criminals in its midst so it my protect itself, its clients nad volunteers.

While "the Red Cross has stated that they will not use credit reports," President Harrison said "requiring that volunteers authorize the procurement of a credit report is inconsistent with this assurance." Red Cross has hired MyBackgroundCheck.com LLC (MBC) to do the on-line background checks. MBC said it will collect "personal information bearing not just on criminal background and creditworthiness" it will also collect information on "character, general reputation [and] personal characteristics." MBC says they want "The nature and scope of this disclosure and authorization is all-encompassing." ARRL Field and Educational Services Manager Dave Patton, NN1N, said he expects Red Cross to lose a fair amount of ARES and other volunteers.

***Update from Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Los Angeles***

ARRL Position on ARC Background Check Policy
Posted by: "David Greenhut - N6HEL"
n6hel@yahoo.com n6hel
Sat Mar 10, 2007 10:25 am (PST)

ARRL Position on the American Red Cross Background Check Policy

Last year, the American Red Cross announced that it was implementing a
background check procedure which would be mandatory for its staff and
volunteers. Many ARRL members, including those who are also Red Cross
volunteers, and ARES members who provide emergency communications for the benefit of the Red Cross, have questions about this policy, and whether or not it applied to them. ARRL offers the following information on this
subject, so that ARRL members can decide for themselves whether or not to
participate in this program. This information is subject to change, however,
as ARRL and the Red Cross have commenced some discussions about the
application of the Red Cross policy to Amateur Radio operators providing
emergency communications. Should any of the following information change,
ARRL will modify this posting immediately, so please review this page
periodically.

ARRL will not attempt to advise members what organizations they should or
should not support, or the extent to which they should comply with policies
that such an organization requires in order for them to accept volunteer
Amateur Radio communication services. However, we feel compelled to caution ARRL members to read very carefully any request for, or consent to the collection or disclosure of, personal, normally private information from a
served agency. ARRL members should carefully consider what is being
requested; for what purpose the information is needed; to what use the
information will be put; and to whom it will be disclosed.

While there have been conflicting statements by local chapters, the National
Headquarters of the American Red Cross apparently intends to require that
all radio amateurs who provide communications for the Red Cross submit to a
background check. Their policy applies to all partner organizations that do
not themselves conduct criminal background checks on their members. ARRL, of course, does not conduct background checks. Some ARRL members are willing to submit to a criminal background check in order to volunteer to provide communications for the benefit of the Red Cross. The Red Cross has delegated the conducting of the background checks to a separate, private company. The private company has a consent form which is a requirement for the background check. The deadline for compliance with this Red Cross requirement, twice postponed, is now March 31, 2007. After that date, the Red Cross indicates that they will not accept volunteer services from those individuals who have not complied.

Initially, the Red Cross' requirements included more than a criminal
background check. Volunteers were also to be required to grant permission
for the Red Cross' background investigation company to conduct a "credit
check" and a "mode of living" check as well. Additionally, the Red Cross
indicated that the only criminal background check they would accept would be
from its own investigation company, "mybackgroundcheck.com."

On February 6, 2007, the Interim CEO and the National Chair of Volunteers of
the Red Cross jointly announced that the policy had changed;

(1) <http://www.arrl.org/announce/ARRL-ARC-bg-check.html#fn1#fn1> that only criminal background checks would be required of Red Cross volunteers; that credit checks would not be required except where separate permission was granted; and that mode of living checks would not be conducted on volunteers under any circumstances. However, the Red Cross' investigation company consent form still includes consent to the conduct of an "investigative consumer report." The Federal Trade Commission's definition of that term specifically includes "mode of living" checks and certain credit checks. The consent form that is required by the Red Cross, therefore, would permit both credit checks and mode of living checks, and not just criminal background checks.

(2) <http://www.arrl.org/announce/ARRL-ARC-bg-check.html#fn2#fn2>The new consent form used by "mybackgroundcheck.com" does not disclose to the person consenting to the search that he or she is in fact granting
permission to have a credit check or mode of living check performed, but
only makes reference to a "consumer investigative report"

(3) <http://www.arrl.org/announce/ARRL-ARC-bg-check.html#fn3#fn3> without explaining it. Although the Red Cross promises that it will not conduct a mode of living check or a credit check of volunteers, its contractor continues to require permission to conduct such investigations. ARRL has inquired of the Red Cross as to the reason for this, but to date has not received a satisfactory explanation.

Should the Red Cross clarify or further modify its background check policy
in response to ARRL's written inquiry and the negotiations commenced
thereby, we will provide that information immediately for the benefit of
ARRL members and ARES participants.

_____

(1) That announcement was as follows:

The following message is from Jack McGuire, Interim President and CEO and
Kate Forbes, National Chair of Volunteers:

On December 22, 2006, we announced that the background check deadline was extended until March 31, 2007 and that a leadership team would examine specific aspects of the program so that they were better understood and accepted across the organization. This week, we approved key modifications to the program, specifically related to the consent form. We believe these changes respond to legitimate concerns and still maintain a strong organization-wide background check program.

The following summarizes the changes:

A new consent form will be developed that eliminates all references to
credit checks and mode of living. The Red Cross will not run future credit
checks or mode of living checks on anyone who has signed the previous
consent form. The Red Cross will consider that consent form null and void as
to the credit check and mode of living authorizations, and promises not to
conduct a credit check on individuals unless we obtain a second consent form
from them authorizing those checks. Mode of living checks will not be
conducted under any circumstances. In an effort to establish and maintain
consistency across the organization, Jane Gilbert, Senior Vice President,
Service Area Support, will convene a working group to establish an ongoing
credit check policy that will define which positions require a credit check
in the future and how to evaluate credit checks for those positions.

You may be wondering why we made these changes and particularly, why now. We listened to your concerns and feedback and determined that adding another consent form in the event that a credit check is needed best met the needs of our volunteer force. This change does not reflect negatively upon the admirable efforts of the many units that worked extremely hard to meet the goals of this initiative by conducting background checks on their employees and volunteers. We believe it underscores the fact that an open dialogue on these issues is critical to the success of this program. These are positive changes that do not compromise the program, but rather advance our shared goal of having a consistent and standard background check program for all employees and volunteers who serve under the American Red Cross symbol. All other aspects of the program remain unchanged, including the deadline of March 31, 2007, by which all employees and volunteers must undergo and clear a background check.

Employees and volunteers who have not cleared a background check by this
date will no longer be able to serve with the Red Cross until they do so.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the National Background
Check Office for their hard work and dedication in assisting the
implementation of the program across the organization. If you have
questions, please contact the National Background Check Office at
backgroundchecks@usa.redcross.org or (800) 507-3960.

_____

(2) The following text is from the Federal Trade Commission website defining
the term "investigative consumer report":

(e) The term "investigative consumer report" means a consumer report or
portion thereof in which information on a consumer's character, general
reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living is obtained through
personal interviews with neighbors, friends, or associates of the consumer
reported on or with others with whom he is acquainted or who may have
knowledge concerning any such items of information. However, such
information shall not include specific factual information on a consumer's
credit record obtained directly from a creditor of the consumer or from a
consumer reporting agency when such information was obtained directly from a creditor of the consumer or from the consumer.

_____

(3) The following text is from mybackgroundcheck.com's website, which
discusses the information that is being requested:

Disclosure Regarding Background Investigation

American Red Cross ("RED CROSS") will procure a consumer report and/or
investigative consumer report on you for the limited purpose of evaluating
you for a position with RED CROSS. MyBackgroundCheck.com, LLC ("MBC") an
affiliate of Pre-employ.com, or any agent of MBC, will obtain the report for
RED CROSS. MyBackgroundCheck.com is located at 2301 Balls Ferry Road,
Anderson, California 96007 and can be reached at 800-300-1821.

The report will contain any written, oral, or other communication of any
information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on your character,
general reputation, personal characteristics which is used or expected to be
used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor
in establishing your eligibility for (A) employment purposes; or (B) any
other purpose authorized under section 604 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The types of information that may be obtained include, but are not limited
to: social security number verification, criminal records checks, public
court records checks, driving records checks, educational records checks,
verification of employment positions held, personal and professional
references checks, licensing and certification checks, etc.

The information contained in the report will be obtained from private and/or
public record sources, including sources identified by you or through
interviews or correspondence with your current or former employers,
educational institutions. You understand that while the information
contained in the report or reports provided has been obtained by various
third parties from public record data sources deemed reliable, their
accuracy cannot be guaranteed due to potential human error in the actual
recording or retrieval of the record.

The nature and scope of this disclosure and authorization is
all-encompassing, however, allowing RED CROSS to obtain from any outside
organization all manner of consumer reports and/or investigative consumer
reports now and, if you are hired, throughout the course of your employment
or volunteer service to the extent permitted by law. As a result, you should
carefully consider whether to exercise your right to request disclosure of
the nature and scope of any investigative consumer report.

-----

Note - While MBC claims it does not sell information. MBC's release enables them to release your information to third parties. They also have the right to unilaterally change the agreement.

************************************************************************************

+ ARRL Update on Red Cross Background Investigations

NEWINGTON, CT, Apr 16, 2007 -- In March, the ARRL posted its position
statement <
http://www.arrl.org/announce/ARRL-ARC-bg-check.html>
regarding the American Red Cross background check policy for
volunteers. This updates information the League has obtained about
that program.

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, and Chief Technology Officer
Paul Rinaldo, W4RI, met March 20 at American Red Cross offices in
Washington, DC, with two attorneys from the Red Cross General
Counsel's office and two management-level staff members from Red
Cross Disaster Services.

ARRL asked the Red Cross staff if ARRL ARES volunteers would be
subject to the American Red Cross background check if they are
providing communications for more than seven days. The position of
the Red Cross is that ARES volunteers would not be permitted to
provide communications at a disaster site for more than seven days
without submitting to the Red Cross background check procedure.
Discussion was then held regarding the Red Cross announcement that
credit checks and mode-of-living checks would not be conducted.
ARRL's stated concern was that the ARC background investigation
consent form states that a consumer report and/or an investigative
consumer report -- which includes certain credit checks and includes
mode of living checks -- will be obtained on the volunteer signing
the form.

The ARRL team asked if the Red Cross would be willing to modify the
consent form so that it limits the authority granted by the person
signing the form to criminal background checks only. The Red Cross
representatives did not indicate a willingness to modify the consent
form.

The ARRL team also suggested alternatives to the Red Cross
investigation firm, MyBackgroundCheck.com. ARRL was given an
indication that the Red Cross is also unwilling to accept background
checks conducted by other entities, because the Red Cross would be
required to compare the methodologies of its selected entity with
those of the alternative background-check provider.

ARRL reiterates its recommendation that members carefully review any
consent document permitting a private organization to conduct a
background investigation on that person. The current Red Cross
background check consent form does include permission, without
further consent from the volunteer, to conduct a consumer report
and/or an investigative consumer report. The Federal Trade Commission
and Federal statutes define investigative consumer reports as
including a mode-of-living check as well as certain credit checks.

ARRL will not suggest what organizations or agencies should or should
not be supported by volunteer Amateur Radio communications. ARRL does
wish to facilitate the provision of volunteer services, however.

 

********************************************************************************************

 

AMERICAN RED CROSS RESPONDS TO ARRL CONCERNS REGARDING BACKGROUND CHECKS  The ARRL Letter, Vol 27, No 20 (Friday, May 23, 2008)

At the ARRL ARES forum at the Dayton Hamvention, ARRL Emergency
Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, announced that the
American Red Cross (ARC) has finally moved to the issue of background
checks for ARES volunteers.

In November 2007, ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, wrote to the
American Red Cross (ARC) regarding concerns voiced by ARRL volunteers.
In 2006, the Red Cross stated it would implement background checks that
included, among other things, a credit check and a "mode of living"
check for its staff and volunteers, including ARES volunteers providing
services to the Red Cross during disasters. ARRL saw these portions of
the background check as unneeded and inappropriate for ARES service.

In a letter dated May 8 of this year, Armond T. Mascelli, ARC Vice
President for Disaster Response Services replied to President Harrison:
"I can now report back to you that [these] actions have been completed
and changes have been instituted which I trust resolves the concerns
detailed in your letter. This effort took considerably more time and
attention than originally envisioned, but I believe the results will now
benefit our respective organizations.

"A new background consent form now [is] to be used by all Red Cross
chapters for ARRL members and other partner organizations. The form and
related process is limited to the name and social security number
verification of the individual, and a criminal background check.
References and suggestions to other related investigative possibilities
have been stricken."

Harrison said that "We are very pleased that the American Red Cross has
addressed some of the issues that we raised regarding their background
investigations and that we can move forward in a relationship that has
existed for a long, long time. The American Red Cross and the ARRL have
shared a productive relationship for many years which has been of
benefit to both the organizations and to the public. We are glad that
throughout the past months we have been able to negotiate the issues
that we had and have finally come to a resolution."

With the background check issue apparently resolved, the ARRL will be
working with the ARC in the negotiation and creation of a draft for a
new "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) or similar document to replace
the one which expired last year; Dura and Keith Robertory of the ARC
will be leading the effort. When complete, the draft of the MOU will be
presented to the leadership of both organizations for approval.

"While we believe that the Red Cross is implementing some changes that
will address some of the concerns expressed to them by ARRL, at this
point, it is work in process," said ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold
Kramer, WJ1B. "There are many questions yet to be answered, but we
believe that the Red Cross is progressing in good faith to complete the
changes to their policy and their background check consent form, which
was the primary concern expressed to the Red Cross by ARRL. There will
be more clarifications and information in the near future. Please keep
an eye on the ARRL Web site for updates as we know them. We are very
much aware of your concerns and have conveyed them to the Red Cross. We
expect the Red Cross to address these and other concerns on subject of
their background check policy in the near future."

"The ARRL is very pleased that the American Red Cross has responded
appropriately to our concerns about the background check issue," said
ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. "We believe it now will
be possible to go forward to negotiate a statement of understanding
between the two organizations. We look forward to renewing and expanding
the relationship with the Red Cross."

Dura warns that when requesting a background check on the ARC Web site,
volunteers from partner agencies, such as the ARRL or ARES, should
select "I am an ARC partner" when asked "What is my Red Cross role?"
Otherwise, he says, volunteers will see the background check form that
asks for "everything."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Volunteer Protection Act of 1997