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Finding Space in the Gig Economy with a Criminal Record Proves Challenging

By Michael Klazema on 1/7/2019

When you climb into a rideshare vehicle or have food delivered by a third-party provider, how can you know the person serving you is safe to trust?

Answering that question has proven challenging for companies such as Lyft and Uber following waves of negative press based on crimes committed by active drivers. Other businesses that offer services through mobile apps, from Postmates to Task Rabbit, have reported reviewing their background check policies to promote user confidence. 

Gig-based businesses want to be able to hire safe, dependable individuals. backgroundchecks.com offers vendor screening services to businesses looking for certainty in their choice of third-party partners. As reports indicate, there is little consistency regarding what gig economy checks look like or how employers use information the checks return.

A recent report in Slate highlighted the impact these inconsistent and confusing policies have on individuals seeking work. One Uber driver identified as Chris C. found himself disqualified following a routine background check; Uber's system flagged him due to two prior convictions on his record. The charges were nearly two decades old, non-violent, and had not previously disqualified him. Uber insisted to the publication that the disqualification was due to a local law in the driver's municipality. However, the company never made this information available to him.

Slate investigated further and reported that zero of the eight businesses it contacted could or were willing to discuss their guidelines for background checks. Critics contend that the uncertainty created by such poorly-defined procedures leads to constrained opportunities in the gig economy for former offenders—and it could lead to accusations of discriminatory hiring practices. 

There are many factors at work making the gig economy difficult to navigate for those with criminal records. The uncertain legal classification for these companies plays a role, as does the continued labeling of gig workers as "contractors" rather than "employees." Such factors muddy the waters surrounding what types of non-discrimination rules apply. Some qualified, rehabilitated individuals skip this burgeoning job market altogether, further constraining their economic opportunities. Those who do choose to secure a gig for themselves may face instability and confusion over the role background checks may play in their employment. 

In many states, some types of criminal records are eligible for expungement. The same states often have firm rules in place preventing expunged records from appearing in background checks or playing a role in employment considerations. 

Understanding how to access expungement can be challenging, especially with a patchwork of rules nationwide. backgroundchecks.com's independent partner service, MyClearStart, allows individuals to take the first steps in exploring eligibility for expungement. Whether it is unlocking opportunities in the traditional job market or the gig economy, expungement is a useful tool to consider.


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