Uber Considers Hiring Drivers With Misdemeanors

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By Stephanie Beasley

March 23 — Officials of Uber Technologies Inc. recently met with a senior House lawmaker to discuss how the ride-sharing company could hire more drivers who might be disqualified under the current hiring policy because of criminal records.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) told Bloomberg BNA that he and his staff met with Uber representatives the week of March 21 to discuss ways the company could broaden its applicant pool in cities like Baltimore, where there are significant income gaps and high crime rates.

Cummings, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is a Baltimore native and currently resides in the city.

“We were talking to them about job opportunities and people who might have a criminal record from a long time ago, for example, no violence, maybe a possession of marijuana or something like that, wanting to drive,” he said. “Just trying to figure out how to get them into the job market.”

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed to Bloomberg BNA that the company had met with Cummings to discuss possibilities for tackling the issue.

Legislative Path Unclear

Cummings said he has no plans to propose legislative action at this time, but noted that there are state laws that prohibit people with criminal records from taking certain jobs.

The No. 1 issue is the safety of the passengers, Cummings stressed. But the lawmaker said there are so many people in Baltimore, particularly African-American men who may have been convicted of petty crimes several years ago, who now find themselves barred from job opportunities because of their criminal records.

“If they've got a history of now doing everything right and haven't gotten into any other trouble, you might want to look at it on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “I think [Uber] wants to try to look at trying to help Baltimore.”

Drivers who have committed felonies are automatically disqualified under Uber's current safety policy. However, the San Francisco-based company announced in January that it would accept applications from people who would qualify to drive under California's Proposition 47, a ballot measure enacted in 2014 that reclassifies certain felonies—such as shoplifting or illegal drug use—as misdemeanors.

Uber is among a number of large businesses that have instituted “ban the box” practices that prioritize a candidate's qualifications before their criminal record. Other such companies include Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc., and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington sbeasley@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com