The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has reached a settlement with a New Hampshire-based staffing agency that employed a temporary caregiver to multiple Vermont long-term care facilities despite knowing that the caregiver had financially exploited at least two older Vermonters while employed on the agency’s watch. The settlement requires the staffing agency—Staffing Solutions of Vermont, LLC—to pay a penalty to the State of Vermont, overhaul its employee hiring and termination practices, and be subject to ongoing State oversight. In response to this case, the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living this week jointly issued required employment protocols governing the hiring and termination of Vermont long-term care facility staff to ensure the safety of long-term care recipients.
Staffing Solutions of Vermont (SSVT) marketed itself as a caregiver staffing agency that conducted background checks on its employees and provided only qualified caregivers to long-term care facilities or individuals in their private residences. In turn, Vermont long-term care facilities and families of individual Vermonters relied on SSVT to provide them with screened, qualified caregivers. Under Vermont law, if an individual is found by Adult Protective Services to have abused, exploited, or neglected a “vulnerable adult,” or if an individual has a criminal conviction for the abuse, exploitation, or neglect of a “vulnerable adult,” they are prohibited from employment in Vermont’s long-term care facilities—including nursing homes, assisted living residences, and residential care homes.
In October 2015, Adult Protective Services (APS) found that one of SSVT’s employees had neglected and financially exploited an older Vermonter while on the job, disqualifying the caregiver from future employment in Vermont. Despite SSVT’s knowledge of APS’ finding, SSVT continued to employ this caregiver to Vermont long-term care facilities and to individual Vermonters in their homes. In May 2018, APS found that this same caregiver had financially exploited yet another older Vermonter while employed on SSVT’s watch. In relation to that incident, the caregiver pled guilty in Vermont Superior Court, Windsor Criminal Division, to felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Despite SSVT’s knowledge of APS’ second finding and the caregiver’s guilty plea, SSVT continued to employ the caregiver to Vermont long-term care facilities.
“The safety and security of those receiving long-term care services depends, in large part, on the quality and character of their caregivers,” said Attorney General Susanne Young. “Because of that,” Young remarked, “it’s critical that long-term care facilities and caregiver staffing agencies undertake rigorous screening processes to make sure that their employees are qualified to work with older Vermonters. When they don’t, or when they ignore disqualifying caregiver backgrounds, they put older Vermonters at risk, as this case demonstrates—and we will hold them to account.”
The settlement requires SSVT to pay $100,000 to the State of Vermont, with $60,000 of the penalty suspended based on SSVT’s cooperation with the Attorney General’s investigation and inability to pay. The settlement also requires SSVT to overhaul the processes by which it (1) conducts employee background checks and (2) communicates background check results to its long-term care facility and individual clients. Finally, the settlement requires SSVT to be subject to monitoring by the Attorney General for compliance with the settlement’s terms.
On Monday, the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative and the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living jointly issued a required employee screening protocol for long-term care facilities and direct care staffing agencies to assist them in hiring qualified caregivers. The protocol highlights (1) what backgrounds disqualify an individual from being employed to Vermont long-term care facilities and (2) what kinds of employee background checks are required in the hiring of long-term care facility staff, including a national background check.
The Elder Protection Initiative (EPI) is a Task Force at the Attorney General’s Office dedicated to advocating for older Vermonters through enforcement, legislation, public education, professional training, and stakeholder engagement. To learn more about the EPI and its work, visit ago.vermont.gov//elder-protection-initiative/.
A copy of the settlement with SSVT announced today is available here.
Contact: Lauren Jandl, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171