Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
The shooting deaths of six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan – where the alleged gunman supposedly picked up fares while working as an Uber driver during the killing spree – raises questions about personal safety in the “gig economy” where strangers use software applications to provide a host of services for others, according to Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) president and chief compliance officer Brad Landin in his opinion piece ‘Vetting drivers in the age of Uber’ on CNN.com.
In his commentary, Landin states that although the alleged shooter, Jason Brian Dalton, apparently had no criminal record that would have been found on a background check, the incident “has placed public attention squarely on the issue of the background checks performed on Uber drivers.” He further explains that background checks “are a complex issue” since “there is no comprehensive database or source of information that provides a perfect one-stop background check solution.”
Instead, Landin says that employers such as Uber that use professional screening firms to conduct background checks on job applicants may access records through private sector databases: However, these databases are incomplete and subject to both false negatives (meaning a criminal record is missed) and false positives (meaning the record is about the wrong person or that, by law, the criminal matter should not have been reported). In our opinion, this type of database should not be relied upon as a standalone search.
While databases can be used as a research tool that can lead to the discovery of information, Landin recommends checking “primary source courthouse records where a person has lived, worked, or studied for at least the past seven years.” He suggests employers “utilize a series of overlapping tools to exercise proper due diligence” that includes a review of the job application, verification of past employment that accounts for any gaps in employment, and an in-person or video interview.
As a background check professional, Landin believes there are some unanswered questions about the Uber screening program that includes running a social security trace to identify addresses associated with the potential driver-partner’s name during the past seven years, searching for his or her name and addresses in a series of national, state, and local databases for the last seven years, and sending someone to review the record at the relevant courthouse upon identifying a potential criminal record.
Landin states: However, the policy does not explain how Uber deals with those counties where databases are unavailable or do not provide actionable information. A solid due diligence approach generally includes searching counties relevant to the applicant, using primary source information. Using only a database is not the functional equivalent of going to each county courthouse related to the applicant, which leaves the question of whether all applicable counties are being properly searched.
Landin also states that the seven-year search policy used by Uber can be problematic since – assuming seven years is the proper time limit – the way the “seven year limit” is calculated can be complex: If the scope is limited to just the past seven years, an older criminal matter can be overlooked, even though it may be reportable and relevant. In California for example, convictions can be reported from the date of conviction, release, or parole. However, San Francisco counts exclusively from the date of the offense.
Landin joined Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) in April 2011 and assumed the role of President in September 2011. He is responsible for all aspects of the company’s strategy, operations, and finances and brings more than 35 years of management experience in both private and public sectors and over 25 years of experience in industry compliance matters. The CNN opinion piece is available at http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/23/opinions/uber-driver-background-check-landin/index.html.
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