Massachusetts officials say more than 8,000 people - including 51 sex offenders - who applied to drive for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft in Massachusetts have failed a required background check.
More than 62,000 drivers were approved, including some who applied to drive for both companies.
The background checks were required under a state law approved last year that officials said called for the most stringent background checks in the country for drivers of ride-hailing services. The program is overseen by the state's Department of Public Utilities.
Of the 8,206 applicants who were denied, the figures released Wednesday show the largest number were turned away because their license had been suspended, they had been licensed to drive for less than three years, or they had multiple serious driving offenses.
More than 300 applicants had felony convictions on their record and 51 were registered sex offenders. The Boston Herald said the drivers were let go after Uber and Lyft received the results of the background checks this week.
Lyft issued a statement Wednesday defending its background check system.
"Lyft's background checks are fully compliant with Massachusetts law, and we maintain a collaborative working relationship with DPU and the Baker Administration," Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin said. "However, under Massachusetts law, Lyft's commercial background check provider, like all consumer reporting agencies, is legally prevented from looking back further than seven years into driver applicants' histories. The state does not face the same limitation, which likely explains why a small percentage of our drivers failed the state's background check while passing ours."
Uber, meanwhile, issued a statement blasting the new screening process.
“The new screening includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period that has caused thousands of people in Massachusetts to lose access to economic opportunities," the company's statement read. "We have a chance to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity.”
Gov. Charlie Baker defended the background checks, saying Massachusetts has set a "national standard for driver safety.
"Public safety is a top priority for this administration and we are pleased to have completed this first round of in depth background checks a year ahead of schedule," he said in a statement. The new law initially called for the background checks to begin next year, but Uber and Lyft agreed to start this year instead.
DRIVERS DENIED FOR:
|Driver licenses less than one/three years||1,580|
|Multiple serious driving offenses||1,058|
|Sex, abuse and exploitation||352|
|Multiple violations of traffic laws||347|
|Open/unresolved driving infractions||331|
|Habitual traffic offender||78|
* Drivers may be denied for more than one reason