Uber was recently fined $8.9 million by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over safety concerns regarding its drivers. Police in Vail alerted officials to an incident of accused assault by an Uber driver, which prompted the commission’s investigation. Regulators found that 57 Uber drivers over the past year and a half worked for the company despite having felony convictions or a suspended, revoked or cancelled license.
The Vail incident of alleged assault is one of many. The company is once again being criticized for its inadequate background checks and failure to monitor drivers once hired. A class action complaint by two women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Uber drivers states that the company labelled itself as a technology platform so that it could avoid more stringent regulations governing taxi and limousine companies. Also, a former Uber employee recently came forward with reports of Uber’s sexist corporate culture, which led to the replacement of the company’s CEO.
Industry Safety Standards
Ride hailing companies are required to perform background checks on drivers, and Colorado law requires that rideshare companies reject applicants with previous felony convictions. The CPUC director stated that information of felony convictions and non-active licenses should therefore have disqualified many applicants. However, Uber allowed applicants with disqualifying criminal backgrounds to drive for the company, putting the safety of passengers in jeopardy.
Uber representatives stated that when they discovered the infracting process error, they proactively notified the CPUC and immediately took corrective action. The company was nonetheless fined $8.9 million, which Uber execs say they are contesting.
Uber reported that only a few number of drivers were required to be removed from the service and that according to Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. However, the CPUC cross-checked Uber’s records with state criminal records and found 29 drivers that should not have been driving for the company – 12 with felony convictions and 17 with violations such as driving under the influence and reckless driving.
The CPUC cited a case in which Uber failed to flag a driver that was using an alias, was a convicted felon, habitual offender and had even escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections. This driver was hired to work for Uber after being released from prison despite his criminal background. Uber stated that it will continue to work with the CPUC to ensure that it is providing a safe, reliable transportation option for Colorado residents.
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