In Focus: Uber, Lyft Suspend Austin, Texas, Service over Background Checks

By Roy Maurer May 10, 2016
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Residents of Austin, Texas, voted May 7 to keep strict background checks, including fingerprinting, for drivers working for popular ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.

In late 2015, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring ride-hailing companies to be regulated like taxis and requiring that drivers undergo fingerprinting as part of a background check.

In response, the companies pushed a referendum asking voters to choose between the city ordinance and a looser statewide law.

Just over half of voters (56 percent) rejected the measure, leading both companies to stop operations in the city as of May 9.

As of Feb. 1, 2017, all drivers employed by the services in the Texas capital must pass fingerprint-based background checks.

“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” Uber Austin General Manager Chris Nakutis said in a statement. “We hope the city council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”

Austin Vote Could Ripple Across U.S.

The explosive growth of the ride-hailing services has generated concerns about passenger safety since their inception. In 2014, Uber decided to require all new and existing drivers to undergo federal and county background checks. But the ride-sharing companies are facing restrictions similar to the Austin law in various cities across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. Uber recently threatened to leave Houston, which requires drivers to be fingerprinted, drug-tested and undergo a physical before they can drive for the company. In 2015, Uber and Lyft made good on a threat to pull out of San Antonio over a similar requirement that drivers be fingerprinted. The companies returned when fingerprinting was made voluntary.

(USA Today)

Vote Follows City’s Ban-the-Box Law

On March 24, 2016, the Austin City Council passed the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance, which prohibits most employers from asking questions about or considering an individual’s criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment.

(SHRM Online)

Background Checks for Gig-Economy Workers

Screening gig workers, contractors and freelancers is one of several evolving trends this year.

(SHRM Online)

When Screens Turn Up Criminal Records

It’s important that HR know how to correctly conduct background checks and comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, especially when criminal records are revealed.

(SHRM Online)

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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