Fingerprinting through a state police background check would make it more difficult for Uber Technologies Inc. to recruit drivers and would be unfair to minority applicants, a company official said.
Fingerprint checks show if a person was arrested, but the databases often do not indicate whether there was a conviction, and false arrests are not uncommon, especially in minority neighborhoods, Amanda DeSantis, Ubers regional trust and safety chief, told The Record in a phone interview. We are looking for actual convictions, she said.
State licensing requirements that include comparing an applicants fingerprints against those in criminal databases are routinely applied to nurses, teachers, taxi and limousine drivers, and mortgage brokers, among others. But Uber, the worlds largest ride-hailing business, has resisted such a requirement.
We think our screening stacks up quite well against the alternative, which is discriminatory against minority communities, DeSantis said. In communities of color, people are arrested at a higher rate, she said.
The company, which for the past two years has been operating largely unregulated in New Jersey, has threatened to leave the state over proposed insurance standards and background check requirements for drivers that include fingerprinting. A bill that includes a fingerprinting requirement was reintroduced this year.
Fingerprinting has been an issue for Uber elsewhere, most recently in Atlanta and Los Angeles, where officials have been pushing for background checks that include fingerprinting.
Ubers independent contractor drivers are vetted by Checkr, an online private security firm. Those checks do not include fingerprinting, but they do include checks of county and federal courthouse records, checks of a multistate criminal database and a national sex offender registry, as well as motor vehicle records and a Social Security trace.
One of the attractions of being an Uber driver is the ease of becoming one. Drivers apply online, and if they have a drivers license, proof of insurance, a Social Security number and a four-door vehicle that is not too old, they can be approved and picking up passengers within two days, if they pass the Checkr background check. If fingerprinting was required, they would have to make an appointment to get fingerprinted, which could make the process take a week or more, and cost the applicant about $65.
In the lucrative New York City market, Uber did agree to a requirement that drivers be licensed by the citys Taxi & Limousine Commission, a process that includes fingerprinting.
As state lawmakers again review competing proposals to regulate Uber and other transportation network companies this year, fingerprint checks are likely to be at the center of the debate.
I would not accept anything less than a fingerprint background check, said Jason Sharenow, president of the Limousine Association of New Jersey, whose members have lost business to Uber.
I do not think their practice is going to provide them with adequate background information. They are looking to fast-track people and get them on the road, he said.