The secret stars of the Uber/Lyft vs. Austin City Council fracas: fingers. In a high-profile showdown over regulations, the ride-hailing companies fought with their wallets to keep drivers from having to submit their fingerprints for criminal background checks. And ultimately, the digits of Austinites took to their voting booth scroll-wheels and cycled down the ballot to reject Prop 1.
Though the proposition called for the repeal of other driver requirements — like trade dress and avoidance of travel lanes when picking up passengers — online conversation often reached the highest screen-bound volume over the fingerprint issue. Uber and Lyft maintained that their name-based background checks were sufficient safety measures.
In what other circumstances is a fingerprint-based background check required around these parts?
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, “Texas law authorizes fingerprint-based criminal history checks for designated volunteers and employment or licensing applicants in a wide variety of areas.” These include:
- Child care providers
- Security and armed guards
- Security system contractors
In an April 29 anti-Prop 1 op-ed, former American-Statesman reporter and editor Brenda Bell wrote that fingerprint checks are also required in Austin for cab drivers, people who work for janitorial services, pedicab operators and “not just teachers but pretty much everyone on the Austin school district payroll.”
According to the Texas Racing Commission website, anyone involved in pari-mutuel racing must be licensed by the commission, a process which requires fingerprint checks. Such individuals include owners of racing animals, owners of kennels, trainers, jockeys, grooms and “those in jobs that provide the opportunity to influence racing,” as well as “those who will likely have significant access to the backside of a racetrack or to restricted areas of the front side of a racetrack.”
Speech language pathologists, too, must submit to a fingerprint background check, according to the Department of State Health Services website, as well as EMS and trauma system licensees. According to the Texas Medical Board, physicians applying for their full medical license have to submit their fingerprints for state and national criminal history checks. Applicants to the State Bar of Texas “required to file a Supplemental Investigation Form must be fingerprinted” as part of the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ “Character & Fitness” process, according to the board’s website. Architects must also submit to the fingerprint-based checks, according to the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners website.
For the record, the Texas public safety department’s official stance on fingerprint checks is clear.
According to the DPS website, “A fingerprint-based search is the most accurate method available returning records based on matching fingerprints; a name-based search has a greater potential to match multiple candidates as the search relies on a comparison of similar sounding names or, if requested, names spelled exactly alike. With a name based search it is possible to match against records that do not relate to the person in whom you are interested, and it is possible to miss the record that does relate to the person in whom you are interested.”
Note: This post is not intended to be a complete list of situations requiring fingerprint background checks in Texas.