Are Uber Drivers Safe in Indianapolis? Uber Settles New Background Check Lawsuit

It is a common practice for companies to do background checks on their employees. However, Uber has stood firm on their stance that their drivers are independent contractors, especially when lawsuits have arisen, claiming Uber was responsible for car accidents in conjunction with the drivers. Some companies also conduct drug screenings, incorporating them into their background checks. If the ride-hailing company did not do background checks on their independent contractor drivers, there could be liability involved if a criminal committed a crime while on the Uber clock.


What Does a Background Check Entail?


Any company has the right to decide what they consider part of their professional background check for potential employees and independent contractors. Some companies elect to check only the criminal background of potential employees. Other companies conduct full background investigations, including credit checks and even checking social media platforms for inappropriate posts. You may remember many years ago, when job applicants were being warned about being conscious of what they posted to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, because companies were starting to analyze the social media accounts of potential employees.


Essentially, companies do not want to take on the responsibility of hiring someone who is not a perfect fit for their company, or, worse yet, someone who may pose a threat to the livelihood of their company. Not only is it difficult to get rid of an employee that is not a good fit, there is also too much liability involved when a company hires the wrong person. Because Uber considers their drivers “independent contractors,” and considers the company a link between drivers and people who need rides, they can hire and fire drivers without notice, but that did not stop these drivers from filing a lawsuit against the company.


Uber & Lawsuits


From car accident lawsuits to pedestrian lawsuits to class action lawsuits, Uber is not a stranger to lawsuits. The company does not like to admit fault in any allegations against it, however, therefore, the current settlement agreement is a bit surprising, considering how steadfast Uber stands on the words “not guilty” or “not responsible.” Even when Uber has agreed to a settlement over litigation, they have continued to maintain their innocence in the matters.


In April, Uber agreed to pay a separate class action lawsuit up to $100,000. The class action included drivers who believed that they were employees of the company and entitled to benefits. Although an Uber spokesperson declined to comment, Uber has disputed that anyone driving for them is, indeed, an independent contractor, not an employee.


In 2014, Uber was sued by the family of a six-year-old girl who was killed by an Uber driver as she crossed the road. As usual, Uber denied any responsibility in the accident, claiming although the driver was available to provide rides and was logged into the Uber app, Uber had nothing to do with the accident. How the app contributed to distracted driving was brought up in the lawsuit, but Uber still denied any liability, despite settling with the family. The details of the settlement were kept confidential.


Another pedestrian, Erin Sauchelli, who was walking the streets of Manhattan, was also hit and seriously injured by an Uber driver. Unfortunately, Sauchelli’s boyfriend, Welsey Mensing, was not as fortunate as Sauchelli, as he lost his life when he was struck by the Uber driver, Aliou Diallo, who was on his way to pick up an Uber rider. The lawsuit Sauchelli filed against Uber claimed that the app used by Uber drivers causes driver distraction and is in violation of the New York State hands-free law.


To make some extra money on top of their rates, Uber charged “airport fees.” However, surprisingly, Uber never paid any fees to any airports or port authorities. A class action put a stop to Uber servicing airports unless the company has permission from the port authority. Additionally, Uber paid out $1.8 million in the settlement due to the unpaid “airport fees” they charged.    


The Background Check Lawsuit


The background check lawsuit was initiated in the San Francisco federal court, alleging that Uber obtained drivers’ consumer background reports without authorization and then terminated them. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the background check lawsuit filed a memorandum of understanding with the court. In the meantime, they were in the process of drafting a formal settlement. The lawyers did express concerns that the $100 million settlement for the drivers who felt they were entitled to benefits would affect the background check lawsuit settlement, however.


Background Check Lawsuit Settles for Up to $25 Million


Uber has claimed that their background checks were the “gold standard” in the industry, but has stopped saying this earlier this year. The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles dispute this statement, noting that taxi companies use a system that requires fingerprints, which ensures that the personal identification drivers provide to Uber are truly theirs. The settlement requires Uber to agree not to use specific language pertaining to its services, including asserting they offer the “safest ride on the road.”


A 62-page document called out 25 different instances wherein the background checks that Uber used failed to recognize convicted felons, misdemeanor charges, and citations. Uber let criminals slip through the cracks, putting their riders’ safety at risk. One of the drivers Uber employed the services of was convicted of second-degree murder in 1982 and spent 26 years in prison. When the driver was released in 2008, he applied to be a driver for Uber and provided transportation to over 1,100 Uber riders. Another driver who provided over 5,600 rides through the Uber app was convicted for felony charges pertaining to lewd acts with children and another driver was convicted of identity theft and burglary.


The settlement for Uber background checks has offered Uber a decent deal, with $25 million in penalties that requires the first $10 million to be paid within two months. If Uber complies with all of the terms within the lawsuit and settlement, the other $15 million may be waived. It would make sense for Uber to start taking responsibility and following all laws and guidelines to ensure no more lawsuits are filed against the company.


If you have been in an Uber accident in Indianapolis and are considering taking on the shyster rideshare giant in a lawsuit, you will need an experienced and aggressive Indianapolis car accident lawyer. The law offices of Rowe & Hamilton are prepared to take on Uber with all our might. Call our offices for a free consultation today.  

Read More Related Articles