What’s Happening in the Gig Economy?

When the gig economy first rose to prominence, it was widely called a “disruption” of industries that had grown stagnant and failed to innovate to keep up with changing demand. It was also hailed as a more accessible opportunity for employment for many people. In the years since, one thing has become abundantly clear — when you “disrupt” the usual way of doing things, you might not pay as much attention to safety or security as you should.

Such problems plagued companies like Uber for years, with every negative headline damaging the brand and furthering broader social concerns about the safety of the industry. Extensive PR efforts and policy reforms at many of these companies have aimed to reduce the risk to users of these services — so how well have those efforts translated into reality? While a contractor background check can't predict with certainty how someone might behave in the future, our latest headline roundup reveals that some risks and problems remain.

Lyft Hit With a New Wave of Lawsuits

A raft of lawsuits against ridesharing giant Lyft appeared in court in San Francisco in September 2022. Representing two drivers but also nearly a dozen riders, filings by attorneys for the plaintiffs revealed multiple instances of serious wrongdoing by Lyft drivers against passengers. These events included attempted kidnappings and sexual assaults. Lyft, while declining to comment on pending litigation, pointed to their background check policies and “low” rate of assaults per number of total rides.

DoorDash Impersonator Attempts Kidnapping

In Louisiana, a man gained access to his brother’s DoorDash account and began making deliveries. When he brought an order to a young woman at Louisiana State University, he tried to force her into his car and leave before a passer-by intervened. Safety advocates say that DoorDash does not do enough to protect customers because they do not display a photo of the driver bringing an order, leaving the door open for such impersonations. In a statement, DoorDash emphasized that the individual was not an authorized driver and reiterated that they conduct background checks.

Uber Driver Sexually Assaults Passengers

In California, a passenger was sexually assaulted and physically wounded by her Uber driver — a man who had prior felony convictions for assault with a deadly weapon. Even worse, the man had a prior arrest and pending prosecution for a rape charge. While the driver was hired, and his background checked several years before the additional crimes, lawyers and advocates question why the man was not disqualified by Uber sooner. 

The Vital Importance of Thorough Freelance Background Checks and More

The gig economy isn’t going anywhere, nor is the demand for their services. However, headlines about the real-world consequences of safety lapses should give pause to everyone who employs freelancers and contractors. The Uber driver was a felon with more than one conviction for violent crime, and Lyft’s own safety reports logged more than 4 000 assaults in a three-year period.

Background checks aren’t fortune tellers, but they can provide valuable information to employers seeking to fully assess the risks an individual might pose. These efforts, combined with strict procedures, ongoing monitoring, policies for addressing warning signs, and a proactive attitude to protecting the public, are must-have elements for every employer of contract and temporary employees today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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