The issue of Uber’s background checking policy has made more headlines this year than we can count. If you just skim the coverage you might get the impression that the ride-sharing giant is trying to get out of doing thorough checks, but in reality, their arguments are actually right in line with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS).
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO insists the company’s background checks are, “more robust than most anything that’s going on out there.” Yet municipalities continue to insist that Uber’s screens are not adequate because they do not do a search of the FBI Fingerprint Database.
Kalanick’s response is that using the fingerprints is actually discriminatory because the system is flawed. It is up to the states to issue final resolutions or dispositions for cases reported to the FBI database, but because of backlogs, technology lags and overworked staff, the majority of the cases in the database do not have final dispositions. That means if you search someone, it might come back that they have been arrested, possibly several times, but the database will rarely have information if charges have been dismissed, or if there was an acquittal or even conviction. For most employers the bar is not even an arrest but getting convicted of a crime. Kalanick claims this problem with the system actually makes it unfair to minorities that have a higher arrest rate per previous studies.
According to the 2015 Government Accountability Office’s report on Criminal History Records, only 20 states report more than 75% of their arrest records with final dispositions. In 10 states they found that less than half of the records contained final dispositions. FBI officials say it is impossible for states to have 100% complete records because it can take more than a year for criminal felony cases to wrap-up and for the outcome to be entered into the system. The report says the impact on people applying for jobs can be significant.
NAPBS has been lobbying Capitol Hill for years trying to show lawmakers that the fingerprint database is not the gold standard that many believe it to be. You can reference this NAPBS Comparison of Background Screening Infographic to get a better understanding of the association’s position. In addition to the missing final dispositions, it is nearly impossible for an applicant to dispute an incorrect record when an employer just conducts a search of the FBI Database.
When employers use a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) like EBI, real people access local criminal court information to find out exactly what happened in each case, they work hard to make sure the records truly belong to the applicant in question, and applicants are covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) so they are able to dispute any inaccurate information.
NAPBS continues its work on this issue. The argument is not to get rid of the FBI Fingerprint Database, but to make sure laws do not require its use as the only means for conducting a background check. Uber gets it. Hopefully as time goes by, lawmakers will as well.