Whether a volunteer is required by law to submit to a background check depends on the type of organization for which the volunteer work is performed. Several state and federal laws regulate health and public safety organizations, some of which require screening of both employees and volunteers. There are also other laws that provide protection to at-risk populations, especially children. One such law allows the public to access information about convicted sex offenders. For more information and a link to state sex offender registries, see the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/index.html.
The laws that facilitate an organization’s screening of volunteers are the Volunteers for Children Act of 1998 (VCA) Public Law 105-251, which amended the National Child Protection Act of 1993 (NCPA), 42 USC § 5119(a) a.k.a. “Oprah’s Law” allowing volunteer organizations to access federal criminal records, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 USC §1681, if a background check is performed by a third-party background screening firm.