In California on the last day of August, the state legislature approved a bill that could fundamentally change how ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft do business in the state. Unlike other laws or ordinances that have sought to regulate the ridesharing industry, the California bill makes no mention of fingerprint background checks. Instead, the bill would require ridesharing companies to reject drivers who have been convicted of certain crimes.
The bill would make it illegal for Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies to hire drivers who are registered sex offenders. It would also bar these companies from hiring anyone with a DUI conviction or anyone who has been convicted of a violent felony in the past seven years.
The bill passed through the legislature in the final hours of its session, moving now to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, the bill didn't have the complete support of the California legislature. While the bill's author and top advocate argued that it would help to keep passengers safe, critics of the legislation said it would make it harder for ex-offenders to find jobs. Companies like Uber and Lyft have made it easier for anyone to make money if they have a car and a few free hours. However, as critics note, by setting absolute boundaries for who is allowed to drive for these companies, the California Legislature might prevent ex-offenders from taking an opportunity to make an honest living.
Assemblyman Jim Cooper—the author of the bill—argued that this type of legislation is vital to give customers of ridesharing services the protection and peace of mind that they deserve. Uber and Lyft drivers have been involved in multiple sexual assault cases, physical assaults, deaths, and other crimes and incidents. The website Who's Driving You? is dedicated to keeping track of all of these incidents. Cooper pointed to an investigation in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2015 in which area prosecutors combed through lists of Uber drivers and found more than two dozen people with long criminal rap sheets.
If Governor Brown signs the legislation, ridesharing companies will have to be considerably stricter with their driver background checks. Every time a ridesharing company hires a sex offender, a person with a DUI conviction, or a violent felony conviction from the past seven years, they will receive a fine from the state. The legislation dictates that the fine amount can be up to $5,000.