Chicago Blasts Lyft's Background Checker For Hiring Driver Convicted Of Aiding Terrorism

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Oct 27, 2017 4:40PM

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Lyft Mustache (Photo by Tony Webster via the Creative Commons on Flickr)

The city is demanding that Lyft get a new company to perform background checks on its drivers, after it was discovered that a man with a federal conviction for aiding terrorism was driving for them.

Raja L. Khan was recently released from prison after serving seven years for attempting to send money to Al Qaeda, which resulted in a federal terrorism charge. Anyone convicted of terrorist-related charges is supposed to be banned for driving for cabs or ride-hailing services in Chicago, but WGN found that Khan had been driving for Lyft for five months. Once Lyft figured out what happened, they removed Khan from their service.

But city officials blasted Lyft for outsourcing its background checking to Sterling Talent Solutions. The Emanuel administration demanded Lyft drop Sterling, according to the Sun-Times.

Ald. Anthony Beale told the paper he agreed: "It slipped through the cracks because these background checks are being outsourced. The company they’re outsourced to dropped the ball. They need to be removed immediately."

Khan had worked as a cab driver for decades before his conviction, and after he was released from prison, he was rejected from both the city and Uber because of his conviction. But Lyft allowed him to work. When a WGN reporter confronted him, he told her that he, too, blamed the background checkers: "They should check my background before they give me the job. That's their problem, not my problem. I don't want to go on welfare. I'm a hard worker. I want to earn my money and feed my family."

Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno fired off a letter to Lyft, demanding not only that the company run stricter background checks on new hires but that 27,000 of its current drivers undergo another round of checks.

"They must re-check every single driver. I want Lyft to re-trace every aspect of this process and identify exactly where the breach happened," she told the Sun-Times.

In the letter, Escareno also asks Lyft to find a new company to do background checks. She also asked them to establish a process so that the city is notified about anyone who fails a background check. And she wants the ride-hailing service to conduct random audits of its drivers and to share those results with the city.