Ensuring Fairness in Background Checks for On-Demand Work

On-demand companies, like Uber, claim to value opportunities for workers, especially workers from areas and communities with high unemployment. Many of these companies fall short, however, when it comes to compliance with the civil rights and consumer laws that regulate criminal background checks for employment. These companies need to comply with these laws by implementing common-sense screening procedures to ensure customer safety and non-discriminatory hiring practices.

Regardless of how they classify their workers—as independent contractors or employees—on-demand companies should follow fair-chance hiring and other civil rights and consumer protection laws to ensure that workers are assessed based on their qualifications, and not solely on their records.

In addition to our recommendation that on-demand companies fully embrace the civil rights and consumer protection laws that protect jobseekers with arrest and conviction records, we urge policymakers to do the following:

  • Issue Guidance Regulating On-Demand Employers: Enforcement agencies, like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, can issue guidance to establish that most on-demand workers, even those classified as independent contractors, are explicitly entitled to the protections of these laws. State labor agencies can issue guidance that workers for specific on-demand companies or sectors are in fact employees subject to the protections of the state’s labor and employment laws.
  • Reform Occupational Licensing Procedures and Consideration of Records: States should reform their occupational licensing laws—in particular, those that regulate industries in the on-demand economy—to reduce barriers for people with arrest and conviction records.
  • Ensure Protections Apply Regardless of Worker Classification: Any state or local policy that applies to workers in the on-demand economy should ensure that the law is not written narrowly to exclude workers classified as independent contractors from labor or fair-chance hiring protections.
  • Ensure Any Restrictions Are Reasonable and Transparent: Whenever policymakers consider laws that impose work and licensing restrictions on people with specific criminal histories, those restrictions should be reasonable and transparent, with a clear and rational connection between the past criminal conviction and the work the applicant is seeking, such that the restriction is legitimately justified to protect consumers and the public.


Related to

About the Author

Nayantara Mehta

Areas of expertise:
  • Community Engagement,
  • Enforcement of Workplace Standards,
  • Nonstandard Workforce