Excerpted from Patch By Noah Manskar

Uber is double-checking its workforce. The ride-hailing giant is making its New York City drivers go through a second background check if they want to continue picking up passengers.

Tens of thousands of Big Apple drivers will have to go through the criminal background check Uber runs on its workers elsewhere in the United States in addition to a screening they already get from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, the company says.

Drivers will be asked through their Uber app to provide their Social Security numbers and consent to the free screening in the coming weeks, the company told them in a Friday email. Any drivers who do not agree to the check will have their account put on hold because it is an “eligibility requirement” to use the app, the message says.

The move is a safety measure that will also ensure all of Uber’s workers across the country get the same screening, even though there’s an additional level of security in the city, according to the company.

“There is nothing more critical than the safety of our riders,” Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang said in a statement. “In New York City, we have relied on our regulator to screen drivers but, in order to ensure we have visibility into the process and to add a level of consistency, NYC drivers will soon also go through the criminal background check process applied to all of our US drivers.”

Uber describes its process as a multi-jurisdictional screening that checks against national databases and gives notifications for new offenses. The company says it runs a check once every year for drivers who are signed up.

Drivers can still drive while their background check is completed, and those who do not pass should be notified within the next few weeks, according to Uber.

Uber drivers already must go through the TLC’s screening process. The commission uses a fingerprint-based background check, which agency spokesperson Allan Fromberg called “the gold standard.”

The process also includes a drug test, a defensive-driving course, a 24-hour driver education course and a TLC exam, said commission spokesperson Rebecca Harshbarger. And drivers can’t have more than five points on their licenses within a 15-month period or owe any fines to the TLC or the Department of Motor Vehicles, she said.

“(T)he TLC does a very stringent review for all TLC-licensed driver applicants, which includes taxi, app drivers, and car service drivers,” Harshbarger said in an email. “… We monitor drivers’ records on a 24-hour a day, 7 day a week basis though the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.”

Uber cast the additional background checks as its next step to bolster safety for those who use its service. The firm has already rolled out an emergency button that lets riders call 911 from the Uber app and a 24-hour safety support service. Riders and drivers can report safety issues at any hour, the company says.

But the Independent Drivers Guild, a labor group representing more than 70,000 app-based drivers in the city, says Uber could do more to keep its workers safe as they’re already subjected to the nation’s toughest licensing and background checks.

“We wish Uber would make the same kind of commitment to driver safety, by providing funds for drivers to obtain dash cameras and by requiring riders to use their real names and photos in the app so that drivers can be sure they are picking up the right person,” guild spokesperson Moira Muntz said in a statement.

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