Class Action Claims Uber’s Background Checks Discriminate Against Drivers

On Thursday, an individual filed a class-action complaint in the Southern District of New York against Uber Technologies Inc. alleging that its use of Checkr Inc. background checks discriminates against drivers by using their criminal history reports to determine workability.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit “challenges Uber’s unlawful use of criminal history to discriminate against its drivers in New York City as well as its brazen noncompliance with human rights and fair credit laws.”

The plaintiff alleged that consumer reporting agency Checkr, which Uber used “to obtain drivers’ criminal history through background checks,” was Uber’s “willing partner in this unlawful conduct.” The plaintiff claimed that “Uber’s criminal history discrimination has fueled and continues to fuel significant racial disparities in New York City and nationwide.”

The plaintiff noted that the New York City Human Rights Law includes the Fair Chance Act, “which, inter alia, requires employers to evaluate job seekers and current workers with criminal histories fairly and on a case-by-case basis.” The plaintiff stated that this is important for “reducing barriers to opportunity.”

According to the complaint, the plaintiff has been licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission since 2014 as a for-hire vehicle driver and has driven for Uber since 2014. However, in August 2020, “Uber used Checkr to obtain (the plaintiff’s) background check, which revealed a 2013 speeding ticket in Virginia characterized as a misdemeanor.” Reportedly, if the plaintiff “had received the same speeding ticket in New York, it would not have been characterized as a misdemeanor.” The plaintiff proffered that he was deactivated from Uber’s platform “(o)ne day later, due to the results of this background check, and without any notice, process, or further communication.” Consequently, the plaintiff claimed he has been deprived of the ability to drive for Uber and earn an income because Uber used the results of the plaintiff’s background check for employment purposes purportedly “without engaging at all in the Fair Chance Act process.”

In particular, the Fair Chance Act process “requires individualized analysis under Article 23-A (of the New York State Corrections Law) and its multi-part factors, the provision of required documents and disclosures, and a waiting period in which the employer must keep the position open for the applicant or current worker to respond to the employer’s concerns about any criminal history that appears on the background check.” However, Uber allegedly did not follow this process.

The plaintiff contended that it was only after he complained about this incident that Checkr provided him “with information about why Uber had barred him from the platform, specifically citing the 2013 Virginia misdemeanor.”

The plaintiff averred that Uber’s policy “of using criminal history to summarily deactivate current drivers from its labor platform or reject new drivers without” complying with the Fair Chance Act “disparately impacts hundreds of Black and Latinx individuals” because of the “racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” according to the complaint.

The two putative classes are the criminal history and discrimination class and the disparate impact class.

The defendants are accused of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the New York State Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

The plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment in his favor, a preliminary and permanent injunction, class certification and for the plaintiff and his counsel to represent the classes, an order preventing the defendants unlawful conduct, an award for damages, costs and fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Mobilization for Justice Inc. and Towards Justice.