Transportation Network Companies Such as Uber and Lyft Will Face More Scrutiny Over Background Checks in 2018

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Several states in the U.S. have passed laws that seek to strengthen the background checks of drivers for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft to ensure the safety and security of passengers who use these popular ride-hailing applications. The growing scrutiny over the strength of background checks conducted on TNC drivers is trend number 8 of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2018 selected by global background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR).

Some TNCs have found themselves in legal trouble over their background checks. Uber faces a class action lawsuit filed by two anonymous women who claim that as passengers they were sexually assaulted by two Uber drivers due in part to the TNC allegedly “using low cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers.” The lawsuit claims “thousands of female passengers have endured unlawful conduct by their Uber drivers including rape, sexual assault, physical violence and gender-motivated harassment.”

States are also issuing fines for TNCs that do not perform adequate background checks on drivers. In November of 2017, criminal investigators with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issued a Civil Penalty Assessment Notice (CPAN) totaling $8.9 million for Uber “for allowing individuals with disqualifying criminal or motor vehicle offenses, or without valid licenses, to drive for the company.” The CPAN listed violations involving 57 Uber drivers who should not have been permitted to drive.

In November of 2017, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) strengthened the background checks required for TNC drivers by requiring TNCs such as Uber and Lyft to use background screening firms accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) when conducting background checks on their drivers. The order requires each TNC to provide proof of NAPBS accreditation of their background check firm to the CPUC and conduct annual background checks on their drivers.

In October of 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) indicated “nearly 15 percent of new ride-hail drivers” were removed from apps over the past six months for failing state mandated screening “despite having passed Uber and Lyft’s background checks,” according to a report by The Washington Post. Maryland rejected 3,503 out of 24,608 applications evaluated since April 3, 2017 – approximately 14.2 percent – and the “rejections included 460 applicants with disqualifying criminal histories.”

In April of 2017, Boston.com reported that figures released by Massachusetts officials showed more than ten percent of drivers failed comprehensive background checks required under a state law for TNCs such as Uber and Lyft, with 8,200 drivers failing and more than 62,000 drivers passing the checks. Of the 1,400 TNC drivers who felt unfairly rejected after failing mandated background checks and appealed the license ban, 444 successfully overturned the decision, according to a follow up report from Boston.com.

Back in 2016, Uber and Lyft had entered into voluntary agreements with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to ensure the immediate implementation of the most stringent background checks for TNC drivers of any state in the nation. The agreements required Uber and Lyft to begin background checks for all TNC drivers operating in the Commonwealth by January 6, 2017, and guaranteed every TNC driver in the Commonwealth would have passed the state background check by April 3, 2017.

In February of 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the “Transportation Network Company Safety and Regulatory Act” (A3695) to license and regulate TNCs such as Uber and Lyft by requiring them in part to conduct criminal background checks on drivers. While TNCs are permitted to conduct their own screening, the Attorney General must approve the method the TNC or a third-party screening company proposes to use to conduct criminal background checks. The law took effect on May 1, 2017.

Lastly, in October of 2016, a law took effect in Rhode Island – S 2864 as Amended – that required TNCs such as Uber and Lyft who use third party screening firms for the background checks of potential drivers to only use firms that are accredited by the NAPBS. Besides requiring driver background checks only from NAPBS accredited screening firms, S 2864 – which was passed in June of 2016 – also placed Uber, Lyft, and other TNCs under the oversight of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission.

“One issue for consumers and regulators is that it is easy for an employer or screening firm to take short cuts in performing background checks that leave the public without nearly as much protection as they think they are getting,” explains ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. “With criminal records, there are a number of way to cut corners.  Unless a regulator understands the inner workings of a background check, it is difficult to evaluate if a real criminal check is being performed or if short cuts are being taken.”

Rosen – author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” and a noted background check expert – has written a whitepaper entitled “21 Shortcuts and Traps that Can Lead to Inaccurate Criminal Records” that is a summary of the many ways that screening firms could potentially take short cuts that may undermine the accuracy of criminal records provided to an employer. The complimentary whitepaper from ESR is available at www.esrcheck.com/Whitepapers/21-Shortcuts-Lead-To-Inaccurate-Criminal-Records/.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading global background check firm headquartered in the San Francisco, California area – will release the 11th annual “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” of 2018 via the ESR News Blog during December of 2017. The complete list of emerging and influential trends in the background screening industry for the coming year as chosen by ESR will be available in January of 2018 on the ESR website at http://www.esrcheck.com/Tools-Resources/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends/.

ESR Webinar on Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2018

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen will host a live webinar entitled “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2018” that will take place on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM Noon Pacific Time. To register for the complimentary webinar from ESR, which will acquaint employers and Human Resources (HR) professionals with emerging and influential trends in the background screening industry, please visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6841084769383752449.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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