Massachusetts Considers Ridesharing Background Check Bill

By Michael Klazema on 3/16/2016

Massachusetts lawmakers are getting close to passing a new statewide background check requirement for all ridesharing services. According to a report from the Insurance Journal, the Massachusetts legislature's Joint Financial Services Committee released an updated and revised version of the bill on March 4th.

The legislation has been pending since last year when it was filed by State Governor Charlie Baker. The bill, if passed and and signed into law, would demand background checks for drivers of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. The Insurance Journal piece indicates that the legislation would dictate "new insurance and pricing guidelines" for ridesharing businesses, as well.

The ridesharing phenomenon generally, and Uber specifically, have repeatedly been criticized for driver background check policies over the past few years. Those criticisms have been helped along by traditional taxicab companies, which typically have to follow local or state guidelines for screening their drivers for criminal records and other red flags. Uber's case has taken many hits along the way, with drivers being accused of everything from misdemeanor battery, to sexual assault and rape, to murder. There is even a site called Who's Driving You, dedicated to aggregating reported criminal incidents that involved Uber or Lyft drivers.

The Massachusetts law would aim to make these ridesharing services a little bit safer for passengers, starting with more consistent background check benchmarks for drivers. Specifically, the bill, as revised by the Financial Services Committee, would demand a "two-step background check for all drivers." First, drivers would need to pass a background check through the ridesharing service itself. Presumably, Uber and Lyft would be able to continue running their current background checks for this step.

The second step would involve a new department within the Department of Public Utilities. The department, which would be called the Ride for Hire Division, would run multi-jurisdictional background checks on every driver hoping to work for Uber, Lyft, or any other ridesharing service. Under the law, any violent or sexually related crimes committed in the past seven years would be automatic grounds for disqualification. Serious driving offenses—including DUIs and hit-and-runs—would result in disqualifications too, as would convictions for felony robbery.

The chair of the Financial Services Committee says that the revised version of the legislation will "allow for expansion and growth of [the ridesharing industry] while ensuring consumer protection and public safety." It would also keep taxi companies at least partially content, by barring ridesharing drivers from picking up fares at the airport until at least 2021.

So what's next for the pending bill? It will head to the full House of Representatives for a vote. If approved there, the Senate will get a chance to review and vote on the bill. The original bill was co-sponsored by members of both the House and the Senate (along with the governor) and had clear bipartisan support from the beginning.

In all likelihood, with that kind of backing, the bill is well on its way to becoming law. Such a turn of events will certainly make things more difficult for Uber, Lyft, and their current or prospective drivers, but will also make things safer for customers. With a double background check that takes some of the oversight out of the ridesharing companies themselves, Massachusetts will be able to take steps to weed out aggressive or otherwise dangerous individuals from the Uber and Lyft driver pools.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 20 Employers who use E-Verify must follow the proper steps and procedures when they receive a “tentative non-confirmation notice” from either the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security. Failure to follow the proper procedures can cost employers both time and money. 
  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.