employment background screening, fingerprinting, Uber, Eric Holder

Eric Holder Weighs in on Fingerprinting and Uber

Eric Holder, former United States Attorney General, has taken a stand against fingerprinting for drivers employed by services such as Uber and Lyft.  He wrote to legislators in New Jersey and Chicago – both currently working on related bills – on behalf of Uber in a bid to convince them that fingerprinting is unfair and potentially discriminatory.  Though some are crying foul because Holder’s firm represents Uber, Holder may have a good point.

In his missive to lawmakers, Holder wrote that fingerprinting can prevent people who were never convicted of a crime from getting a job, simply because their fingerprints will appear in the FBI’s database.  “[The FBI database] was not designed to be used to determine whether or not someone is eligible for a work opportunity.  Relying on it for that purpose is both unwise and unfair,” Holder wrote.

On police procedural shows like Law & Order and CSI, fingerprinting is represented to be the end-all, be-all solution to catching criminals.  Unfortunately, that is not the case in reality.  Fingerprinting is, at best, an incomplete tool, as the fingerprints on file may not represent actual convictions.  Also, if an arrest record did not originally include a fingerprint, it will not be included in the FBI’s database.  And finally, the FBI’s Interstate Identification System, or “III,” only includes dispositions on about half of its records.

The problem, as Holder sees it, is that fingerprints may be on file for a given candidate, even though no charges were ever filed and no conviction was ever obtained.  Because of that, there is a solid basis for the idea that fingerprinting may discriminate unfairly against minorities.  Senator Paul Sarlo (D-NJ), chairman of the committee currently evaluating background screening legislation that would affect rideshare services, says that Holder’s letter “definitely has some influence and I think the committee is weighing that letter.”

Speaking in opposition of the measure is Republican Senator Anthony Bucco, who said he would not throw his support behind the bill unless it contained the fingerprint check.  He claims he “can’t understand [Uber’s] objections to fingerprinting,” noting that “even Little League coaches are fingerprinted in New Jersey.”

The controversy over Uber and fingerprinting stems from the fact that limousine and taxi companies have long used fingerprinting as part of their overall background screening package.  Many in the industry feel that services like Uber and Lyft should use the same criteria other drivers submit to, but Uber maintains that companies should not rely so heavily on fingerprinting because of its flawed nature.  In fact, after auditing 163 Austin, TX Uber applications submitted by taxi drivers, 53 were denied employment based on Uber’s background screening protocol.  Of those 53, nearly 36% were rejected due to a serious and recent conviction.

In the midst of all of this is the news that Uber has settled the lawsuit its drivers filed over background checks for $7.5 million.  That case, heard in a San Francisco federal court, included allegations that Uber illegally terminated drivers after obtaining background checks without their prior authorization.  That represents a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which requires employers to notify applicants in a “clear and conspicuous” manner that they are authorizing the employer to obtain a consumer report on their behalf.

The Cedalius Group is the employment background screening provider you can trust.  We offer a full suite of solutions to help you build a background screening package that works for your business.  If fingerprinting is part of your current background screening process and you are wondering whether or not it should be, give us a call today at 404.963.9862 or visit us online at www.thecedaliusgroup.com

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.