Understanding Updates to The Act 153 Background Check Law

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Friday, September 17, 2021



To protect minors (people under the age of 18), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted Act 153. This law requires anyone employed in Pennsylvania whose work brings them into direct contact with minors to undergo a three-part criminal background check, including fingerprinting and an FBI clearance. 

In January 2020, Act 153 was amended for positions considered to have “direct contact” to eliminate the 90-day period during which an employee could begin work before their background checks had been completed. This is intended to ensure that employees who would be working with minors upon arrival in their roles were already cleared.

This change has caused a bit of confusion among hiring supervisors and incoming staff members. We wanted to share some information that we hope will clarify the rule and reinforce the importance of careful planning for an employee’s arrival. 


How Do We Implement Act 153 at Lehigh?

Because any staff or faculty member could potentially come into direct contact with a minor in the course of their work at the university, Lehigh requires everyone to undergo Act 153 background checks as a condition of employment. These clearances need to be renewed every five years. 


How Does This Change in the Law Impact Lehigh?

At Lehigh, we consider that the elimination of the 90-day grace period applies to anyone hired or transferred internally into a role that has direct contact with minors specified in their position description (see illustration). Any staff member assuming this type of position must successfully pass the required background checks before their first day of employment at Lehigh.


What is Direct Contact With Minors?

Lehigh’s Protection of Minors Policy outlines what the university considers direct contact with minors as contact between an adult and one or more minors that:

  • Involves the care, supervision, guidance, or control of a Minor or Routine Interaction with Minors;
  • Involves an overnight stay (with the exception of Lehigh University students hosting high school students, such as prospective student-athletes and those participating in pre-enrollment visits); and
  • Occurs in Lehigh Facilities for five or more hours in any three-month period.

In addition, the policy states that the following persons are always deemed to have Direct Contact with Minors: 

  • Program Directors
  • Lehigh Conference Services employees
  • Employees and volunteers of third party programs in Lehigh Facilities
  • Individuals involved in athletic camps run by Lehigh Athletics coaches, as well as their directors, employees, contractors and volunteers


What Should Employment Coordinators and Hiring Managers Do To Ensure Compliance for Incoming Staff Members?

It is essential that a new or transferring employee with the designation described above successfully complete all of their required pre-employment checks prior to their start date or they will not be permitted to begin working in their position.

Due to the increased demand for background checks in Pennsylvania as well as labor shortages due to COVID, it can take up to three weeks for the completion of this requirement. Hiring managers need to take the accelerated requirement and the potential for delays in the background check process into consideration when recruiting a staff member into such a role. Please be sure to select a start date that provides enough time.


Still Have Questions?

Contact the Talent Acquisition Team at inemploy@lehigh.edu.