Kalamazoo Shooting Puts More Heat on Uber Background Checks

Kalamazoo Shooting Puts More Heat on Uber Background Checks


When an applicant hands over their data, do they just get the keys?

On February 20th, Kalamazoo, MI, saw an enormous tragedy. Jason Dalton, an Uber driver, shot and killed six people and reportedly was even working for the service during the time he was actively shooting. It’s put Uber on the spot about its background checks, but how much could Uber even have anticipated?

Uber’s Background

Uber’s background check process is fairly straightforward. A driver has to provide their name, Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license information, registration, and insurance. Uber uses a third-party service to check the last seven years of its driver’s behavior, in order to abide by various state and local laws. If the check comes across something of interest, court records are collected and analyzed.

If an applicant has a conviction for any major felonies, or is flagged on the sex offender databases Uber checks, then they won’t be hired. Otherwise, provided the applicant’s car is up to snuff and they’ve got the ability to work, they can start working for Uber once they’re set up in the company’s system.

While critics have called for Uber to overhaul its background checks, it’s not clear what else the company could have done. Tightening its hiring requirements would potentially be unfair to applicants with minor arrest histories and might draw the attention of the federal government. It’s limited by the law in how extensive its checks can be and how those checks are used. Nor can Uber or most background check services access mental health records, under privacy laws.

And even if they had tightened their hiring and set up a more detailed background check process, it wouldn’t have mattered. Dalton had no meaningful criminal record to that point, and had no mental health problems on record at the time. So what could Uber have done, and what can other employers do, to help prevent tragedy?

More Than A Check


Where does trust begin?

Background checks are a crucial component of the hiring process, but they’re just that: One component of what should be an in-depth, well-considered process. Too often, HR departments and hiring managers, especially at busy companies with many employees like Uber “hire from the check.” In other words, if the paperwork looks good, they get the job.

Instead, make sure the check isn’t the only part of your process. Sit candidates down and speak with them for a while, for any job, to get a sense of who they are and how they communicate with people. Often a background check needs to be paired with a gut check in the hiring process; if you think somebody’s not a good fit, you can choose a better person for the job.

The reality is that there was nothing Uber could have done about Dalton. No matter how rigorous their checks, no matter how detailed their process, they were unlikely to spot something not even Dalton’s family, friends, or coworkers saw coming. All Uber, or any company, can do is be diligent in their hiring, do the proper checks, and make sure somebody is talking to employees and making sure they’re doing well. If you want to see diligence in action, request a free background check trial.

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