On Friday, November 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2868, “The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009.” Of note for HR professionals is a provision in the bill that would require security background checks of certain individuals at chemical facilities – along with paid administrative leave for any employee being investigated.
Under section 2115 of the bill dealing with chemical plant employees who have access to restricted areas or a facility security plan, employers would be required to:
- Verify and validate such employees’ identity;
- Check employees’ criminal history;
- Verify and validate employees’ legal authorization to work; and
- Identify any employees with terrorist ties.
If an employee is found to be a security risk, the employer could only terminate the worker if that employee:
- Has been convicted of a criminal offense;
- Is found to be on the consolidated terrorist watch list; or
- Is not legally authorized to work.
Under the bill, employers will be required to provide employees under investigation with full pay and benefits until all appeals and waiver procedures are exhausted. Thus, should this legislation become law, a new precedent would be set for future HR public policy. As written, H.R. 2868 would not affect other laws that require or permit criminal history background checks or work authorization checks.
While SHRM has not taken a formal position on this bill as yet, the American Chemistry Council opposes the bill. Some stakeholders are concerned the bill would compel chemical facilities to lay off workers if forced to comply with the legislation’s strict security requirements.
The outlook for the legislation in the Senate is unclear. It has been rumored that Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is likely to introduce his own version of the bill in the coming weeks. SHRM will continue to monitor developments on this legislation.