Background checks have been a major sticking point for Uber and Lyft. Both, for instance, dropped serious loot to spike a law in Austin. They also threatened to leave Maryland over a proposed fingerprint background check system. If laws there had gone into place, you might’ve seen more stories like this: more than 8,000 drivers for the ride-hailing services failed new background checks in Massachusetts—reportedly including 51 sex offenders.
The Boston Globe says the state’s new law ensnared drivers for anything from license suspensions to violent crimes and sexual offenses.
The state reviewed the criminal and driving records of nearly 71,000 drivers who had already passed reviews by the companies, and rejected 8,206 — about 11 percent.
Hundreds were disqualified for having serious crimes on their record, including violent or sexual offenses, and others for driving-related offenses, such as drunken driving or reckless driving, according to the state Department of Public Utilities.
The agency said it rejected 51 applications from sex offenders and 352 for incidents related to “Sex, Abuse, and Exploitation.”
The new system launched in January, and the Globe reports it rejected “many drivers” who passed Uber and Lyft’s own reviews. “These statistics show clearly that passengers were potentially at risk before regulations took effect,” Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett told the newspaper.
Background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers remains a particularly relevant point in Massachusetts; on Christmas Day, for example, a Lyft driver was charged for allegedly stabbing a passenger. Turns out, the driver had a prior conviction that, according to Lyft’s background check standards, should’ve made her ineligible to drive.
Uber and Lyft, expectedly, weren’t pleased by the new findings. From the Globe:
Uber and Lyft each pointed out that they are limited by state law to checking just the last seven years of an applicant’s history, which they said explains why so many drivers they had passed flunked the government’s more thorough review. Lyft said only “a small percentage of our drivers failed,” while Uber added that the unlimited reach of the government’s background checks is unfair to drivers who are trying to overcome past troubles.
“Thousands of people in Massachusetts have lost access to economic opportunities as a result of a screening that includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period.
“We have an opportunity to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity,” the company said.
A license suspension or a petty theft? Sure, those riders should get a chance to drive, if they want. But maybe that wasn’t the best tone for Uber to strike, given the findings included sex offenders that Uber’s system didn’t catch?
The Globe says those denied as a result of the background check can only drive for one of the services if they succeed on an appeal.