Over 8,000 Uber, Lyft drivers fail background checks in US

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New York, April 6 (IANS) More than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in the US state of Massachusetts have been banned from driving under a new, stricter background check regulations, a media report said.

In November, the ride-sharing companies agreed to let the state run its own background checks as part of a deal that would let Lyft and Uber drivers service Logan Airport, CNN reported.

More than 70,000 drivers applied for the checks. The results of the state’s first screening were announced on Wednesday, and more than 10 per cent of applicants did not pass.

The most common reason for rejecting drivers was a previous suspended license.

More than 1,500 drivers were rejected for a violent crime charge. Other reasons for denial included various driving offences, felony convictions, and sex abuse and exploitation, CNN said in its report.

The state also identified 51 sex offenders.

Not all the rejections were for legal reasons though. Many drivers had not held a license long enough to qualify under the new rules. Others had an inactive license.

In a statement, Governor Charlie Baker said Massachusetts has “set a national standard for driver safety”.

Uber and Lyft typically rely on their own background checks, looking for disqualifying offences in the past seven years.

Massachusetts checks are different in a few key ways, according to the state criminal Defence Attorney Johanna Griffiths.

They look at a drivers’ entire lifetime instead of just the past seven years. They also include people who had a “continuance without a finding” on their record.

Also called a CWOF, it’s a type of plea deal that lets defendants avoid a guilty conviction.

Under Massachusetts law, Lyft’s commercial background check provider, like all consumer reporting agencies, is legally prevented from looking back further than seven years. But the state does not face the same limitation.

Even though it previously agreed to the background checks, Uber is not happy with the results.

“The new screening includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period that has caused thousands of people in Massachusetts to lose access to economic opportunities,” said Uber in a statement.

Ride-hailing companies have until 2018 to comply with the law, so there may still be time to change the rules. Public hearings are scheduled for May.

–IANS

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