Austin Widens the Scope of Taxi Driver Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 4/13/2016

As Uber faces legal problems for holes in its background checks, the city of Austin, Texas is taking steps to enhance vetting policies for its own transportation drivers. According to a report from the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin City Council has voted to make background checks for local taxi, shuttle, and limousine drivers "national in scope."

The new "national" or multi-jurisdictional background checks will use fingerprinting to look for criminal convictions beyond state lines. Right now, Austin city requirements only mandate state background checks for most taxi, shuttle, or limo drivers. The exception is for drivers who have lived in Texas for less than three years. In such cases, city licensing officials add a background check in a driver's previous state of residence.

Even for drivers who have lived in Texas for a short period of time, the fingerprint background checks will broaden the scope. Of course, multi-jurisdictional background checks are not foolproof and don't provide searches of every single criminal record in all 50 states. It isn't immediately clear whether or not the new requirements the Austin City Council approved will supplant the current background check policies or supplement them. The safest option would be to keep the current policies in place and simply add the multi-jurisdictional fingerprint checks as an extra step. However, such a decision would also be more expensive.

This new ordinance is something of a follow-up to a similar measure that the Austin City Council passed in December. That ordinance is supposed to require drivers of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to undergo fingerprint background checks. However, the two companies have so far been staunch in their arguments that fingerprinting would scare away potential drivers and make it difficult to operate in Austin. Whether or not the ordinance gets repealed will be decided by public vote on May 7th.

In addition to requiring drivers to go through new background checks for chauffeur licenses, the Austin City Council is responsible for establishing rules on what sort of offenses would disqualify drivers from receiving such licenses. The proposal for the new ordinance did include stipulations about different offenses and how they would be handled in the licensing process. Specifically, the new rules would not automatically disqualify drivers for DUI offenses, drug possession, and other non-violent crimes so long as those convictions are seven years past or older. The City Council is tabling discussion on those factors until May or June—until after the public votes on the ridesharing fingerprinting ordinance.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 22 Countrywide, states and local municipalities have committed to ban the box legislation, seeking to equalize opportunities in the job market for those with criminal histories.
  • March 22

    Thinking about becoming a firefighter? Here are some of the background check requirements you might face.

  • 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.