Unintended Consequences of Michigan’s “Clean Slate” Law

Now that I’m officially retired from rideshare, I feel free to write about it. Incidentally, rideshare is one reason it’s been so long since I’ve posted. Keep reading if you want more details.

I drove Uber for about 7 years, the last 3 seasonally, as I spent some of the year in Dominican Republic, where I am now. Uber is strict about conducting annual background checks on its drivers; there have been unfortunate incidents in the past, and it doesn’t want more negative publicity. Each year I’ve driven for Uber, the background check went through without a hitch. It usually takes a day or two…

But not this year. You see, long ago I lived in Michigan for a few months. Michigan recently passed a law whose intention was to make it easier for non-violent ex-felons to reintegrate into society and get jobs. Due to this law, I was not able to get a job driving Uber this year.

Uber can be very lucrative, and even fun – at least in the Portland, Oregon area. Most passengers are nice, and the pay is excellent if you’re willing to put in the hours. I earned good money last year, enough to live off of and to set aside for my months in Dominican Republic.

This year, when I applied for the annual background check, I was told there might be a small delay, of about five days, for those who had once lived in Michigan or Calif0rnia. Those five days came and went, and the background check was still pending. I called, and was told it might be another week. I got this message from support on June 7th:

Thank you for reaching out. I can confirm here that the criminal portion of your background check is currently pending with our third party background check provider, Checkr.

Make sure to keep an eye out for any emails you might receive in case Checkr needs anything else from you, otherwise there’s nothing you need to do at this time.

Depending on where you live, have lived, and the process for county courthouses to obtain records, this can take up to 7 business days to complete, sometimes longer.

Once Checkr is able to complete your report they will send that to us for review.

Additionally, if you live in California or have previously lived in California you may be experiencing delays due to an update to record-keeping policies causing a delay in processing background checks.

I continued to call Uber support, (their support team is generally excellent), and they assured me that it would only be a few more days. The Checkr website kept giving me new estimated dates of completion, which were generally two weeks ahead. I was planning on selling my personal vehicle, and renting a Tesla from Uber, since I only drove seasonally. Uber paid for my trip to the rental center, unaware that they wouldn’t rent me a vehicle without a completed background check. They ended up paying for my return trip as well.

On July 2nd, I got the same canned message that they sent me the previous month. On July 17th, the phone support team assured me that the background check would be done with a few days, that it was in the final stages. By the time mid/late-July had arrived, it became clear to me that Checkr was unable to complete the background check. Here are two examples of the emails they sent me (and what they told me on the phone):

I’ve reviewed your background reports and unfortunately, they are still being affected by the new clean slate law recently implemented in Michigan. As a result, various courts in the state have either restricted public access to criminal records or limited the number of searchable years to comply with the law.
Checkr continues to work with Michigan courts to improve turnaround time in affected Michigan counties. We’re also gathering information via phone and in-person court visits to determine when record access will return to normal for particularly impacted courthouses.

Your background check has an updated completion date.
We’ve also notified Uber. There’s nothing you need to do for now—this is just for your information.
Estimated completion date:
Aug 8 – Aug 13

Overall, it was unclear to me whether the obstacle was manpower limitations in the Michigan court system, or that Michigan refused to release records. Either way, it was due to the “Clean Slate” law. If you follow this link, you’ll see that the State of Michigan has greatly restricted public access to court records. There is no doubt that Uber/Checkr found a workaround for drivers currently residing in the State of Michigan – but people who LIVED THERE YEARS AGO are simply out of luck, and solving this problem is clearly not a high priority.

The bottom line is that, unless I actually move to Michigan, my days of driving for Uber are over. When this became clear, I reactivated my Lyft driver account – and you can read about that in my next post.

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One Response to Unintended Consequences of Michigan’s “Clean Slate” Law

  1. Pingback: Word from the Dark Side – Fatboy Slim, fate is grim, a bouncy whim and they aren’t trim | SovietMen

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