Once again, rideshare company Uber is back in the public eye, along with its competitor, Lyft. As part of a recent deal made with the state of Massachusetts to allow the two companies to offer their services at Logan Airport, both Uber and Lyft agreed to let the state run its own employment background checks on drivers. Governor Charlie Baker said that his state has “set a national standard for driver safety,” and he could be right.
Out of 70,000 drivers who applied for the background checks, nearly 11% failed. Where Uber and Lyft’s own background checks scan for disqualifying events in just the past seven years, the Massachusetts screens have two key differences:
- They cover the entirety of the driver’s lifetime
- They include people who had a CWOF, or “continuance without a finding,” which is a type of plea deal that allows defendants to avoid a guilty conviction
The companies are legally prevented from looking further back than seven years, but the state is not limited in that way. This explains why some drivers failed the state’s check after passing the “legal” compliance requirements demanded of Lyft and Uber.
The most common reason drivers were rejected was a previously suspended license. Over 15,000 drivers had violent crime charges, and other reasons for denial included felony convictions, sexual crimes, and various other driving offenses. In some cases, the driver had not held a license long enough to qualify under the new rules, and a few others had inactive licenses. Additionally, 51 applicants were found to be sex offenders.
Uber, predictably, is not excited about these results. In a statement released after the results were made public, the company said, “The new screening includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period that has caused thousands of people in Massachusetts to lose access to economic opportunities. We have a chance to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity.”
Last summer, the state passed new inspection and insurance requirements rules for companies like Uber and Lyft, though they have until 2018 to comply with parts of the law and appeals are in process.
In 2016, Uber settled a civil suit launched in 2014, which argued that the company’s internal background checks had failed to uncover criminal records for 25 of its drivers, for $28 million with no admission of guilt.
Also in 2016, an Uber driver was accused of raping a 16-year-old passenger and was later found to “have a lengthy criminal record, including assault and battery on a correctional officer in 2012,” and a Lyft driver accused of stabbing a passenger was found to have a drug conviction from 2010.
Events like these are what spurred Massachusetts lawmakers to action, with the goal of creating stronger laws for screening drivers in the state to protect consumers and citizens. Critics, though, argue that such long-reaching criteria for past crimes can impact otherwise good workers in a negative way. Should, they argue, a single crime, committed 10 or 20 years ago, prevent a person from earning a living driving for a company like Uber or Lyft?
At a time when advances are being made regarding the value of limiting candidate histories and expounding the benefits of the “ban the box” movement, the Massachusetts protocols appear to be an intrusion contrary to the national movement. The outcome of this will certainly be interesting, but for now, the jury is still out.
Background screening often walks a delicate line between legality and ethics, but we at The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust, understand the distinction and we want to help you have an in-depth understanding of the federal, state, and municipality laws that govern your business, but also the unique needs of your company’s talent selection processes and risk management. Call us today at 404.963.9862 to learn more about how we can help you meet all of your background screening needs, 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.