Maryland Won’t Require Fingerprint Checks for Uber and Lyft

By Michael Klazema on 12/29/2016
Regulators in the state of Maryland recently decided against a mandate that would have required fingerprint background checks for popular ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. According to a report about the decision from The Baltimore Sun, Uber and Lyft will instead have to comply with “additional reporting and safety provisions.”

Uber was threatening to leave the state of Maryland entirely if the government decided to require fingerprint background checks. In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly agreed that it wanted fingerprint checks for all ridesharing drivers, to match compliance rules for taxi drivers. The requirement would have made it illegal for drivers to accept fares through the Uber and Lyft apps without first submitting to (and paying for) the fingerprint checks.[G1] [G2]

Technically, that General Assembly decision is still in place, and ridesharing drivers in Maryland do need fingerprint checks on file. However, both Uber and Lyft petitioned the Maryland Public Service Commission for waivers that would allow them to be exempted from the rule. According to a recent [G3] [G4] Washington Post article, the Public Service Commission went through multiple days of hearings in the month of November, trying to decide whether or not to sign off on the waivers.[G5]

Ultimately, the commission decided that both Uber and Lyft have sufficient, extensive background check policies in place to keep passengers safe. Regulators noted that, since both fingerprinting and commercial background checks can have holes or return inaccurate information, there wouldn[G6] ’t be much benefit to adding another layer of checks. Any other ridesharing companies will still need to follow the state law for fingerprint checks, but since Uber and Lyft are by far the biggest businesses in the marketplace, the impact will likely not be significant.[G7]

There would have been a significant impact if Maryland regulators had decided to enforce the fingerprint background check requirement for Uber and Lyft. Maryland was the first state to consider imposing fingerprint background check requirements on ridesharing services. Previously, these restrictions had only occurred in cities. As a result, [G8] the Maryland scenario marked the first time that Uber was threatening to cease operations across an entire state. Plus, since some Maryland ridesharing drivers also often accept fares in Virginia and the District of Columbia, the effects of new regulations would likely have extended to outside the state. [G9] [G10] [G11] [G12]

Following the decision from the Maryland Public Service Commission, both Uber and Lyft noted that they had no further plans to cease operations in the state. Neither company will be completely exempted from the state law, though. While the Public Service Commission agreed to waive the fingerprint background check requirement for Uber and Lyft, both companies will still have to comply with other facets of the law. For instance, the ridesharing companies will have to rescreen each of their drivers on an annual basis. They will also have to let state regulators know if they choose to alter their background check policies in any way.[G13] [G14]


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