Uber accused of hiring sex offenders, convicted murderer


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has filed an expansion of a consumer-protection lawsuit accusing Uber of false advertising and hiring drivers with criminal histories, including sex offenders and a convicted murderer.

Gascon said Wednesday that the growing ridesharing company continues to unfairly claim it is rigorously checking the background of its drivers. Gascon said Uber can’t make that claim unless it puts it drivers through the same fingerprinting process required of taxi drivers in California.

“This is really only scratching the surface,” Gascon said at a San Francisco press conference.  The suit was filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.

Citing Uber’s own advertising about rider safety and its extensive screening process, the complaint says that registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, identity thieves, burglars, and a convicted murderer had passed Uber’s “industry leading” background check.

“Uber’s business model depends upon convincing its customers it is safe to get into a stranger’s car despite its admission in its terms and conditions through at least April 7, 2015, that its customers ‘may be exposed to situations involving third party providers that are potentially unsafe, offensive, harmful to minors, or otherwise objectionable,”‘ the complaint says.

The complaint lists several drivers who passed Uber’s background check process despite having criminal histories and driving records that are disqualifying under Uber’s own representations.

One driver was convicted of second degree murder in Los Angeles in 1982. After spending 26 years in prison, he was released on parole in 2008. He applied to drive for Uber using a different name and was hired less than seven years after being released from prison, the court document says.

The Uber driver worked for the ridesharing service in Los Angeles until May 28, 2015 and provided 1,168 rides to consumers, according to the complaint.

Another driver was convicted of committing lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14, a felony, on July 25, 1999, but a background report generated by Hirease failed to uncover his conviction. That driver was hired and provided 5,697 rides to Uber passengers, including unaccompanied children.

In a statement Wednesday, Uber said it disagrees with Gascon. A company spokeswoman said that no background check system is flawless and its checks are just as detailed as with taxi drivers.

“While we agree with the district attorneys that safety is a priority, we disagree that the Livescan process used by taxi companies is an inherently better system for screening drivers than our background checks,” a spokesperson for Uber said in a statement.

“The reality is that neither is 100% foolproof — as we discovered last year when putting hundreds of people through our checks who identified themselves as taxi drivers. That process uncovered convictions for DUI, rape, attempted murder, child abuse and violence. In addition, Livescan includes people who have been arrested but not always charged or convicted, which can discriminate against minorities. We look forward to resolving this issue, just as the DAs settled an almost identical case with Lyft last year for $250,000. Meanwhile we continue to work on improving safety for riders and drivers before, during and after the trip,” Uber’s statement said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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