More than 8,000 Massachusetts residents who want to drive for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft won’t be allowed to, because they didn’t pass a new background check system that operates in that state.
Most were rejected because they had suspended licenses or hadn’t been driving for long enough to qualify, according to a report on the matter in The Boston Globe. But hundreds had committed serious crimes, including violent crimes and sexual crimes. 51 applicants were registered sex offenders. Others had convictions for drunk driving or reckless driving.
The checks came about because Massachusetts passed a new law regulating ride-sharing companies, which required a background check run by the state government, in addition to the companies’ own background checks. The state checks began in January, and the results were announced yesterday. Out of the 70,789 drivers who went through the state application process, 8,206 were rejected.
The discrepancy between the background checks by the companies and by the state came about because Massachusetts looked much further into the drivers’ past than the companies did, or could.
“Under Massachusetts law, Lyft’s commercial background check provider, like all consumer reporting agencies, is legally prevented from looking back further than seven years into driver applicants’ histories,” Lyft said in a statement to the Globe. “The state does not face the same limitation, which likely explains why a small percentage of our drivers failed the state’s background check while passing ours.”
Uber had a more confrontational response, suggesting the state wasn’t being fair to drivers who had overcome their past.
“Thousands of people in Massachusetts have lost access to economic opportunities as a result of a screening that includes an unfair and unjust indefinite look-back period,” Uber told the newspaper. “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.”
Uber faced a lawsuit in 2014 over claims that its background checks, which the company called “industry-leading,” were insufficient. The company settled the case in 2016 with a $28 million payment, without admitting wrongdoing.
The drivers are allowed to appeal the results.