Uber CEO Labels Fingerprint Background Checks as 'Unjust'

By Michael Klazema on 6/28/2016

Uber is currently in the midst of numerous background check-related conflicts all over the country. The company, which runs in-house background checks on its drivers, is resisting city or county requirements for additional background checks and licensing in multiple U.S. cities. Most recently, the ridesharing service has objected to running fingerprint background checks on its drivers. Uber has pulled its business out of several cities following the passing of ordinances that would have demanded driver fingerprinting. Austin, Texas is one of several cities that no longer have Uber services due to new background check laws.

Over the past two years, Uber has made several different arguments against fingerprinting. First, since Uber already vets its drivers, company leaders believe it is redundant to require another layer of checks. Second, the company has said that the cost and length of time necessary to process fingerprint checks will scare drivers away from the service. Uber's CEO laid forth another grievance against fingerprint background checks recently, calling them "unjust." Speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto, CA, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that fingerprint background checks make it so that falsely accused people can't get jobs. He connected this claim to Uber's reluctance to obey city and county policies that demand driver fingerprinting.

“Imagine a country where people might get arrested who shouldn’t get arrested," Kalanick said. "Imagine if that country were the U.S. We have systems in place where if you’re arrested, you literally can’t get work, even if you’re found to be innocent. And it’s unjust.”

According to other sources, Kalanick may have overstated the relationship between arrests and employment disqualification. Employers are not barred from hiring applicants with arrest histories. While the FBI fingerprint database does store both arrest and conviction information, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strongly recommends that employers do not take arrest histories into account when vetting job applicants. Since arrests without convictions offer no proof of guilt, they are not a reliable barometer to use in judging an applicant's character. As such, there is no scenario in which Uber would be required to disqualify a prospective driver because of an arrest record. In fact, the company would risk lawsuits or other potential trouble from the EEOC if they were to use arrests to inform employment decisions.

Largely because of the EEOC's stance on using arrest records in hiring decisions, most background checks do not include arrest information. Even fingerprint background checks can exclude these findings. Regardless of whether or not Uber's fingerprint checks included arrest information, the company would not be bound to use findings for employment decisions.


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