Feb 21, 2024

Utah legislators have introduced a bill to increase screening requirements for workers and volunteers. The legislation in question is Senate Bill 158 (SB 158). If passed, SB 158 would require “Youth Service Organizations” to run sex offender registry checks on all volunteers and employees before providing certain services for children. 

Legislators intend to provide more protections for children entrusted to public or private organizations through SB 158. As such, its requirements apply to “youth workers,” such as employees and volunteers who are 18 years old or older. However, SB 158 specifically applies to youth workers “whose responsibilities as an employee or volunteer with the youth services organization give the individual regular and repeated care, supervision, guidance, or control of a child or children.”

These requirements also apply to “Youth Service Organizations.” SB 158 defines these organizations as a “sports league, athletic association, church or religious organization, scouting organization, or similar formally organized association, league, or organization, that provides recreational, educational, cultural, or social programs or activities to 25 or more children.” 

As such, SB 158 requires covered organizations to perform sex offender registry checks. This check must happen before employing individuals and volunteers as youth workers. When reviewing the individual’s background, the youth service must acquire the individual’s full name. It also requires the individual to provide a current government-issued ID to ensure accuracy. 

Youth organizations may not hire nor accept volunteers as youth workers if their sex offender registry checks come back with “hits.” As such, they cannot hire youth workers who appear on the state’s Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry. They also cannot hire anyone appearing on the National Sex Offender Public Website.

SB 158 opens organizations to lawsuits concerning negligence for the following reasons:

  • Failure to perform sex offender registry checks
  • Hiring an individual listed on either the state or federal sex offender registry
  • Hiring an individual who molested a child In addition, insurers would be permitted to require youth service organizations to provide proof of compliance with these requirements as a condition of providing liability coverage.

Utah’s Senate has already offered unanimous support for SB 158 and needs a vote from the state’s House. This bill is a second attempt to require background checks for those working with youth. The first attempt happened in last year’s session. Though considered less aggressive than the previous proposal, the Senator who proposed both versions feels it is a “step in the right direction.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.