Colorado fines Uber for hiring drivers with criminal convictions
Colorado regulators recently issued an $8.9 million fine against Uber’s parent company for allowing drivers with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses to work for the ride-hailing service.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission said in November that 57 Uber drivers should have been barred from employment due to prior felony convictions. Individuals named in the case are convicted of driving under the influence and reckless driving, and include a former prison escapee. The Colorado PUC opened an investigation in March after an Uber passenger claimed he was assaulted by a driver in the mountain resort town of Vail.
“We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” PUC director Doug Dean said in a statement. “These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy.”
According to Colorado state law, people with felony convictions, alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, unlawful sexual offenses and major traffic violations are prohibited from driving for rideshare companies.
Uber said a "process error" inconsistent with state ridesharing regulations led to a small number of applicants slipping through its normal background check procedures.
“Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans,” the company said.
Uber began operating in Colorado in 2014 after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 125 authorizing rideshare in state. The PUC regulated the service, giving companies the choice of fingerprinting drivers or running a criminal history check.
According to the bill, drivers are ineligible for employment if they've been convicted of a felony in the past five years. Nor can they be hired if they've ever been convicted of serious crimes including felony assault and fraud.
Both Uber and fellow rideshare company Lyft have pushed for background checks over fingerprinting, stating that fingerprint-based checks have gaps that reduce their efficacy. In April, Maryland banned 4,000 ride-hail drivers who failed to meet state screening requirements despite passing Uber or Lyft background checks. Massachusetts disqualified 8,200 drivers - including 51 registered sex offenders - who had passed company checks.
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