Uber Drivers With Criminal History Hired, Faulty Background Checks To Blame

Uber drivers are required to pass a criminal background check in order to be eligible for employment with the ride-hailing transportation service, but drivers with serious criminal histories have slipped through the cracks, and some cities where Uber operates want answers.

Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys filed an amended civil complaint against Uber this week for not properly conducting the required criminal background checks on individuals who apply to become Uber drivers. The initial complaint was filed in December 2014, but after the district attorneys discovered 25 Uber drivers with criminal records had been hired in their cities, they took action and filed the amended complaint.

“I support technological innovation,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Innovation, however, does not give companies a license to mislead consumers about issues affecting their safety.”

District attorneys are complaining that the background checks that Uber drivers are subjected to are not thorough enough and do not require biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, to properly identify and check the background of the applicant.

Concerns of public safety are at the forefront of the civil complaint because the cracks that Uber drivers fell through are gaping. Uber’s faulty background checks allowed several drivers with felony criminal histories to work for them, including one man convicted of second-degree murder who spent 26 years in prison before being paroled.

Other offenses that made it through Uber’s vetting process were felony exploitation of children, felony kidnapping for ransom with a firearm, identity theft, and driving under the influence.

Uber is defending their position, stating that they screen potential drivers in accordance with the rules that the state of California put in place, and that these rules were softened by legislators to allow for rehabilitation of ex-offenders.

But California isn’t the only state that is experiencing fallout from the shortcomings of the Uber driver background check process. A woman in Dallas, Texas, was raped by an Uber driver last month who had an extensive criminal background.

Talal Ali Chammout picked up an Uber rider and drove her to her residence. Chammout followed the rider into her home, where he allegedly proceeded to sexually assault her.

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The city of Dallas requires that potential Uber drivers pass a background check with the city as well as an Uber background check before they can be hired. Uber made a statement that Chammout had been licensed as a livery driver with the city of Dallas, a claim that the city denies.

“If we have a driver who is somehow able to get behind the wheel and pose as an Uber driver, then Uber has to explain why he was able to pick someone up and execute a sale,” said Sana Syed, a spokesperson for the city of Dallas, according to Texas Monthly. “We have no record of him applying to be a driver. He’s not in our system, period.”

Chammout was convicted in 1995 of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. He was federally indicted in 2006 for purchasing military equipment to send outside the United States, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.

He purchased night-vision goggles, chemical-protection suits, ballistic vests, body armor, and asked to purchase rocket launchers from a witness working with federal authorities. Despite his criminal background, Chammout was able to work as an Uber driver.

[Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]