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Airport workers face stiffer FAA rules

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An estimated 1 million people who work in secure areas of the nation's airports will undergo fingerprint-based criminal background checks under a Federal Aviation Administration regulation going into effect this week.

The FAA rule will apply to baggage screeners and employees who work in secure areas of airports, including everyone from aircraft mechanics to employees of newsstands and coffee kiosks.

Airports and airlines will have one year to conduct criminal background checks on current employees.

Beginning Thursday, new job applicants must be checked before they join the workforce, said spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler.

The rule applies to all commercial airlines and about 450 airports, she said.

Congress mandated the change last year and gave the FAA until November 2003 to implement it. The FAA said Tuesday it was expediting the change because of the threat of terrorist attacks.

The FAA said it is "likely" the organization that staged the September 11 terrorist attacks "has sought or will seek to place members in positions at airports to facilitate future attacks, or that it will attempt to co-opt individuals already in such positions."

The current method of investigating employees is "not adequate," the FAA said.

Under current regulations, job seekers must provide a 10-year employment history. The employer -- either an airline or airport -- verifies the most recent five years of that history, typically by calling previous employers.

An employer can request a criminal background check only if one of four "triggers" is spotted, such as an unexplained gap of 12 months or more in the 10-year employment history.

The FAA said it is concerned the four triggers do not always identify job seekers with criminal histories.

During an October 2001 audit, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation found some employees had disqualifying criminal convictions.

Employees will not be permitted to work in secure areas of airports if they were convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of a disqualifying crime during the previous 10 years.


• Federal Aviation Administration

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