Massachusetts Tweaks Background Check Requirements for Ridesharing Drivers

By Michael Klazema on 9/15/2017
The Massachusetts state government is tweaking some of the background check requirements for drivers of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Per a recent report from The Boston Globe, the changes come after the government faced significant pressure “from business interests and criminal justice advocates” over its policies on ridesharing.

Statewide ridesharing regulations are relatively new to Massachusetts, coverage notes. It wasn’t until last summer that legislators voted to require state background checks for all ridesharing drivers. Those regulations went into effect in January.

In April, the state reported that it rejected 8,206 drivers out of 71,000 background checks it conducted in the first few months of the policy. Critics of ridesharing organizations took those numbers as a sign that Uber and Lyft hadn’t been vigilant enough about screening their drivers thoroughly. Others interpreted the statistics differently, suggesting that the state’s standards were too high.

The state has decided to alter its background check policies. As reports note, certain types of offenses—such as violent crimes, sex-related offenses, and more severe driving infractions—will still cause the state to reject drivers. The Globe report indicates that these types of red flags only accounted for “hundreds” of the disqualifications the state announced in April. Most drivers were rejected over other documented issues.

The biggest tweak to the state background check policy concerns driving records. Coverage explains that the state was looking back through seven years’ worth of driving records for all potential Uber and Lyft drivers. Drivers with any license suspensions on their driving records from that seven-year window were disqualified. Going forward, the state will primarily look at the last five years of driving history. License suspensions within the past five years will still be grounds for disqualification, but older suspensions will only come into play for drivers who have proven themselves to be “habitual traffic offenders.”

The state background check system has so far barred some drivers who had no criminal convictions but had documented court settlements, coverage notes. In certain situations, a defendant might get a “continuation without finding” in a court case instead of an innocent or guilty verdict. This form of settlement is something that defendants can eventually get dismissed. The Massachusetts state government has been disqualifying drivers with such continuances on their record.

The new rules don’t prohibit the state from using similar disqualifications in the future. Reports indicate that some drivers who have been disqualified over continuation court settlements will be able to get hearings before regulators. Settlements that are older than seven years will be eligible for this kind of reconsideration.

The new rules go into effect on Friday, September 22.


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