According to the best estimates, approximately 1-2 million U.S. citizens 65 years of age or older have been mistreated, exploited, or injured by a caregiver. Unfortunately, only about one out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse are brought to the attention of local or state authorities.
For children, the outlook is much grimmer. Every year, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies, involving more than 6.6 million children. In 2014, state agencies found an estimated 702,000 victims of child maltreatment, which would pack 10 modern football stadiums.
The elderly and the young are susceptible to abuse and mistreatment because of their inability to care or defend themselves. Often, their mental capacity is such that they are not even aware that the abuse is happening or unable to tell others about it.
As a HR manager with clients in these age ranges, it is important to be aware of what duties come with the position. According to HR Magazine, state law may make HR managers “mandated reporters,” those required to report allegations. As awareness of this issue of abuse increases, HR managers are increasingly exposed to civil and criminal liability for failure to report incidents to the local authorities.
Who is a Mandated Reporter?
Most states designate mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, social workers, day-care providers, school personnel, and health care workers as mandatory reporters. In some businesses, such as schools, child care facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes, HR managers are included on this list.
What are the Potential Legal Penalties for Failure to Report?
- Criminal prosecution, such as a misdemeanor charge or a fine. Fines can range from $50 to $10,000 and imprisonment can range from six months to four years.
- Loss of licensure or other professional disciplinary action.
- Civil liability from lawsuits seeking redress for damages. In the case of an HR manager, the company, as well as the individual, could face liability for failure to report suspect actions by employees, as well as negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Damages from a civil lawsuit are potentially higher than criminal files.
Become Educated on the Signs of Abuse
According to Charles Brown, board member from the Nursing Home Abuse Center, “One of the most pervasive forms of nursing home abuse today is that of neglect.” Neglect can occur anywhere and take on many shapes. In addition to neglect, sexual abuse and physical violence can often be common among these individuals. Learning what to look for is key in identifying potential abuse.
Develop a Plan Ahead of Time
- Be sure to become familiar with state laws and who on staff is a mandated reporter.
- Find out which local law enforcement agency is designated to receive reports.
- Find out how law enforcement authorities interpret the law in a particular state.
- Create a written, coordinated policy and procedure for making the report.
- Explore training options for the mandated reporters on staff.
- Coordinate activities with law enforcement agencies.