California Law Strengthens Background Checks for Uber and Lyft – Wall Street Journal

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Drivers of experience-hailing corporations Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. will face stiffer felony background checks in California beneath a brand new regulation signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The regulation, which takes impact Jan. 1, will prohibit Uber and Lyft from hiring drivers who’re registered intercourse offenders or had a violent felony conviction at any time of their previous. State regulators at present require Uber and Lyft to carry out background checks spanning simply seven years.

The regulation additionally blocks Uber and Lyft from hiring drivers with misdemeanors akin to home violence and driving whereas drunk or medicine up to now seven years. The corporations say they’ve been excluding drivers with these offenses.


Uber and Lyft, each based mostly in San Francisco, face fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for every banned driver nonetheless on the street. The corporations might have to rerun background checks on the tens of hundreds drivers in probably the most populous state that features two of their largest markets in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Both Uber and Lyft say they supported the invoice as a result of it permits them to offer extra full background checks. A spokeswoman for Lyft stated the regulation permits experience-sharing providers to “grow and thrive in California.”

“The law helps ensure riders are safe at all times,” stated California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a Democrat, who wrote the invoice. “These drivers are picking people up from their homes—it wasn’t sufficient to have anything but the most comprehensive checks.”

Background checks have been a specific sticking level for journey-sharing providers, with some regulators and taxi commissions contending the businesses’ scans are much less stringent than these for the regulated taxi and limousine industries and might permit harmful drivers on the street. More complete checks, akin to fingerprinting, that may present entry to extra databases might take longer and sluggish the businesses’ means so as to add extra drivers.

Uber screens drivers utilizing a service referred to as Checkr Inc. that scans native, state and nationwide databases for figuring out addresses related to an individual up to now seven years, and then matches any convictions throughout that point. Lyft makes use of an analogous background-examine service provided by Sterling Infosystems Inc. The checks take roughly two days, shorter than the Live Scan course of that’s usually employed by the taxi business and that depends on an individual’s fingerprints.

Adding extra drivers shortly is essential to Uber and Lyft to make sure brief wait occasions for passengers and hold fares low. And drivers could also be fickle, solely working a number of hours every week or switching to different so-referred to as gig financial system jobs that provide higher wages or incentives to hitch.

Such drivers work on a contract foundation, which means they aren’t handled as staff with full advantages and should pay for their very own gasoline and insurance coverage, amongst different issues.

In April, Uber settled a lawsuit introduced by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles over the way it marketed the security of its background checks to riders. That lawsuit alleged that Uber did not display out 25 drivers with felony data, together with convictions for kidnapping and homicide. Uber disagreed with the regulators’ declare that its background-verify course of was inferior to others.

Both Uber and Lyft halted operations in Austin, Texas, in May after voters upheld laws requiring fingerprint-based mostly background checks, amongst different issues. The two companies had spent tens of millions battling the brand new guidelines, which they stated are unnecessarily onerous.

Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com



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