A new lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Older Adult Protective Services Act, which bans anyone with a felony conviction from working in nursing homes or home health care settings for the elderly or mentally ill.
The law was successfully challenged in a 2003 case, but the state has delayed changing or updating the statute.
Community Legal Services lawyer Janet Ginzberg, who will represent the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, blames legislators in Harrisburg for the delay.
“The sound bite could say ‘Legislature votes to allow criminals to take care of grandma,'” said Ginzberg. “Part of it was, just politically, it was hard to get things passed, and part of it was they could never really figure out how to change the law in a way that would be acceptable and not too costly.”
Attorneys will ask the court to declare the law unconstitutional and force the state to take immediate action, Ginzberg said.
Even some elder-rights advocates say the lifetime ban prevents rehabilitated people from taking a job in an industry that need workers.
Diane Menio, executive director of CARIE, an elderly rights advocacy group, said her first priority is to protect consumers.
“But we also want good caregivers for the vulnerable people that are receiving care,” said Menio. “And, in some cases, that person who might have had a 30-year-ago conviction might not be a bad caregiver.”
Any new law should require extensive background checks to protect vulnerable consumers, Menio said.