Background Checks

A Houston, Texas, city official recently said, to justify requiring fingerprint checks before issuing a license to every Uber driver, “It’s easy to lie about your name, it’s easy to lie about your Social Security number, it’s easy to lie about where you’ve lived. Your fingerprints are tied to you.”  While that’s true, there are a couple of flaws in this sort of thinking.

First, not every court system in this country reports every conviction to the FBI.  Second, even if an FBI check turns up an arrest, it seldom includes the disposition of the case.  Did the state drop the charge, or was there a plea bargain to a lesser offense, or was the person arrested found to be not guilty.  Third, the FBI data base doesn’t include misdemeanor arrests like misdemeanor assault or misdemeanor theft, not does it reveal if the original felony charge was dropped to a misdemeanor.  Finally, because the FBI doesn’t consider itself to be a Credit Reporting Agency, people whose names do turn up have no rights whatsoever to dispute the accuracy of the information as would be required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The point is that an FBI fingerprint check is an incomplete data base that was never intended to be used as an employment screening tool.  So, is the city of Houston helping protect its citizens by requiring prospective Uber drivers to submit to a fingerprint check?  Perhaps a little bit, but really not much at all.  There are, as has been pointed out before, far more reliable ways to screen prospective employees.