A proposed class action claims Uber’s practice of terminating workers on the basis of criminal records is unlawful and disproportionately affects Black and Latinx drivers.
Filed by the nonprofits Mobilization for Justice and Towards Justice, the 29-page lawsuit alleges Uber Technologies and Checkr, a consumer reporting agency used by the ride-hailing company to conduct background checks on current and prospective drivers, have “unlawfully imposed barriers to opportunity on Uber’s driver workforce that have a significant racial impact.”
The plaintiff in the suit is a Black New York taxi driver who says he had been driving for Uber since 2014 before being terminated last August due to a background check that revealed he had a single speeding ticket from another state.
According to the complaint, Uber’s termination of the plaintiff is a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which requires employers to perform an individualized analysis based on a handful of specific factors, provide certain notices and disclosures, and allow three business days for the individual to respond to the company’s concerns before taking adverse action against a current or potential employee based on criminal history.
“Uber did none of these things,” the complaint scathes, alleging the ride-sharing giant also failed to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to supply specific disclosures and notices to the plaintiff before taking adverse action. From the complaint:
“Current and potential Uber drivers with criminal histories are being deprived of crucial notice, information, and process that would permit them to explain their criminal histories, correct inaccurate or incomplete information, and otherwise challenge Uber’s policy of barring them from its labor platform due to that criminal history.”
Citing statistics regarding racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the lawsuit says people of color in New York City are disproportionately arrested and therefore disproportionately affected by criminal background checks. Moreover, people of color are more likely than white residents to work for Uber and other transportation platforms in the city, the suit adds.
“Accordingly,” the case says, “a transportation company such as Uber using an independent contractor workforce that discriminates based on criminal history against New York City residents will cause a significant disparate race impact due to differences in New York State and City arrest and conviction rates between white resident[s] and Black and Latinx residents.”
Per the lawsuit, the Fair Chance Act, a provision of the NYCHRL, forbids most employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history before making them an offer. If an employer then decides to terminate an employee or revoke a job offer based on an individual’s criminal record, the employer “must explain why” using theFair Chance Act Notice, provide the individual with a copy of their background report, and allow three business days for the employee or applicant to respond, the suit says.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the suit goes on, further requires Uber and other employers, before terminating a worker, refusing a job offer or taking another adverse action based on the contents of the individual’s background report, to provide pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the individual’s consumer report and a summary of their rights under the FCRA.
The lawsuit alleges Uber has fallen short of the mandates set by both of these statutes, as well as New York state’s version of the FCRA, in terminating workers based on their criminal records.
The plaintiff, who in 2014 was issued a for-hire-vehicle license by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission for which a background check was required, says he began driving for Uber in 2014 and put in an average of 50 to 60 hours per week for the next six years or so. According to the case, the plaintiff was subjected to an essentially mandatory background check in August 2020 when he was asked through Uber’s platform to consent to such.
“Had he not provided consent, [the plaintiff] would have been barred from access to Uber’s labor platform,” the case points out.
A day after the plaintiff authorized the background check, Uber deactivated him from its platform “without any notice, process, or communication,” the suit says. It was several months later when the plaintiff learned that his background check had revealed a 2013 speeding ticket from Virginia that was classified as a misdemeanor, according to the case. The lawsuit adds that had the ticket occurred in New York, it would not have been classified as a misdemeanor.
Per the complaint, Uber failed to fulfill NYCHRL and FCRA requirements before terminating the plaintiff based on the results of his background check. As of the date the complaint was filed, the plaintiff had still not received the required notices and documentation from either Uber or Checkr, the lawsuit says.
According to apress releaseissued by Mobilization for Justice and Towards Justice, this lawsuit is the first time a transportation platform like Uber has been named in a case alleging violations of the Fair Chance Act since the NYCHRL was amended in 2020 toinclude gig economy workers.
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