Arrest of Food Delivery Driver for Theft Shows Need for Background Checks of Gig Economy Workers

Gig Economy

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A driver for online and mobile food ordering and delivery service provider Grubhub was arrested and accused of theft after being caught on a video camera stealing a tip jar from a restaurant in Michigan, according to a report from FOX 2 News Detroit. One background check expert believes incidents like this show the need for “nationally accepted” background check standards for “gig economy” workers.

FOX 2 News reports franchisee Paul Goldman – who asked to keep his fast food restaurant anonymous – immediately called Grubhub to get the driver’s name but was “stonewalled” and local police were told “they need a subpoena to get her info” but eventually tracked her down and found she had “a history of run-ins with the law.” Goldman was “outraged at the lack of due diligence on Grubhub’s part.”

A Grubhub spokesperson told FOX 2 Detriot that “the driver was immediately fired after the indecent” and “all drivers get extensive background checks before getting hired and period ones throughout their employment.” Goldman – who plans to pursue charges against the driver – questioned if a check was done. “Know this everybody, the person that is ringing your doorbell hasn’t been checked at all,” he warned.

The problem for the “gig economy” – also called the “trust” or “sharing” economy – where software applications or “apps” are used to facilitate on-demand services such as Uber that allows car owners to share their vehicle and time with others, is “trust,” according to background check expert Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).

In his article “Why Consumers Cannot Trust the Trust Economy – The Inherent Conflict of Interest between Gig Economy Firms and their Customers and How to Fix It,” Rosen – author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ – explained how there have been documented cases and negative publicity surrounding the selection of trust economy workers who have not proven to be safe and could pose a risk to consumers.  

Rosen cited an investigation by CNN (Cable News Network) from 2018 that found at least 103 drivers in the United States working for transportation network company (TNC) Uber “have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years” and as many as “31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape.”

The gig economy is growing rapidly. A study by Intuit estimated approximately 7.6 million Americans will be regularly working as providers in the gig economy by 2020, more than doubling the total of 3.2 million in 2015. The gig economy sector has grown from 17 percent of the U.S. workforce in 1990 to 36 percent of it in 2015, and is expected to reach 43 percent by 2020.

However, Rosen explained that in order to get the requisite numbers of workers, trust economy firms must attract them as quickly and cheaply as possible since spending time and money to be selective is not in their short term best interest. As a result of this “need for speed” and the desire to attract warm bodies to do work, these firms have an incentive to do the opposite of what consumers would want

Consumers concerned for their safety want gig economy firms to be selective, take time to do proper vetting, and spend what is needed to ensure that their workers undergo a rigorous background check.  Rosen explained the basic disconnect faced by the gig economy is that firms want the trust, but there is a disincentive to do the things needed to fully gain trust from the consumers their technology serves.  

“As the trust economy grows, stories of consumers being harmed by criminal acts of providers can be expected to increase as well. Given the negative fallout from such publicity to any firm in the trust marketplace space, it would seem that an effort to create some standardized and generally accepted background screening protocols would be of great benefit to both providers and consumers,” Rosen said.

“The obvious solution is for firms in the trust economy to formulate a nationally accepted standardized approach to due diligence and background checks. The keyword is ‘nationally accepted.’  Merely creating self-serving industry standards that benefit the gig marketplace will not go nearly far enough to assure consumers, the government, or plaintiff’s lawyers that the sector is truly regulating itself.”

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers background checks for the gig economy that leverage the latest technology for firms that supply on-demand workers in the extended workforce that need to process a great many individuals very quickly. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Industry-Specific-Solutions/On-Demand/.

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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