Uber, Lyft and Nationwide Criminal Record Checks

How can this happen? Uber and Lyft conduct criminal background checks don’t they?

In Portland, some of the Uber and Lyft drivers that are picking up passengers, many times late at night, actually have serious traffic violations and two were felons convicted of sexual assault and assault with intent to murder. These drivers were found by “random checks” conducted on 80 people each month by the city of Portland. This issue is repeated across the country.

CNN reported that at least 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers with a criminal history have allegedly raped, forcibly touched or committed other crimes over the last four years.

Uber and Lyft utilize background screening vendors that do not conduct criminal record checks through primary sources such as the State Police in each state. Instead, to avoid State Police search fees and save money, the vendors use a less expensive and highly inaccurate proprietary databases that are euphemistically called a “national criminal record database”. This “database” consists of mined data scraped from a number of sources including correctional records, mugshots and police blotters. Often these records contain limited identifiers that can falsely attribute a record to the person applying for a job. The result is a false sense of security. Cheap can be expensive.

Is your company conducting national criminal record checks as part of your background investigation? Background investigation companies promote national criminal record checks because it is in their interest and not in the interest of the employer or the public.

With a click of a mouse in their account with the vendor, national database results are instantly obtained, untouched by human hands. This type of search accomplishes two goals for the vendor to reduce costs. First, this search avoids the requirement to manually log into a State Police website to run the search and report the results. Secondly, the national criminal record check avoids State Police search fees. Vendors are able to sell the national criminal record service as a low-cost compared to actual State Police searches which often include search fees of $10-30 per candidate. The employer is easily convinced by the vendor that their national criminal record search is much more cost-effective covering all 50 states rather than fees of up to $30 for a State Police search. However, the national criminal search is woefully inadequate has limited personal identifiers in often incorrectly attributes a criminal record to a candidate resulting in a potential lawsuit.

A 2016 lawsuit filed by San Francisco and Los Angeles revealed that Uber used Hirease and Checkr to conduct national criminal record checks on their drivers. Both background vendors have been the subject of numerous lawsuits and still, national background checks are the primary criminal record checks conducted by both companies and the background industry. The 2016 lawsuit alleged that the background checks failed to catch 25 drivers with criminal backgrounds because the screening process did not conduct the search through primary source governmental agencies. Uber settled the lawsuit for $25 million. Lyft also settled another lawsuit relating to national criminal record checks in 2014.

A spokesperson for Uber told ABC News, “There’s nothing more important than the safety of the drivers and riders we serve. We have strengthened our background checks and introduced new screening technology”.

So why wasn’t a criminal record was developed for drivers when a criminal check was conducted? Uber and Lyft use of inaccurate and incomplete proprietary databases consisting of records mined from the Internet failed to identify drivers with criminal backgrounds.

Human Resources should be aware of the potential danger of national criminal record checks. An audit should be conducted of your on boarding practices to ensure that primary source criminal record checks are being conducted. Additionally, employers should ensure that they are complying with Fair Credit Reporting Act guidelines. An employer must notify the candidate if an opportunity is rescinded due to information contained within a background investigation report. The employer must also provide a copy of the background investigation to the candidate along with notification that they have a right to dispute the information contained within the report.

TABB INC. conducts primary source criminal record checks on all candidates. For additional details, please call 800-887-TABB (8222) Ext. 505 for details.

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