Delivery drivers for gig economy delivery services who've had traffic violations, criminal convictions or at fault accidents may be at risk for contract termination, depending on:
- If the violation happens when you're active on their platform and it violates their terms of service
- Whether or not the incident means you can no longer pass a background check
- If the delivery company knows about the violation.
So what does that mean if you had a speeding ticket? Or maybe you got into an accident? Does that mean your delivery days are over?
Not necessarily. It depends a lot on a lot of factors. It may also take a lot of time before Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or other gigs actually do anything.
However, the important thing to remember here is that gig workers are independent contractors, providing delivery services as a business. They are not employees of the company.
This is an important distinction for you if you deliver for any of these companies. It means they can terminate a contract at will without due process. You have no recourse for wrongful termination because, again, you're not an employee. This all falls under contract law and not employment law.
We'll look a bit deeper at this question. In this article we'll talk about:
What kind of violation can get you deactivated?
If a delivery service like Doordash, Instacart, Grubhub, Uber Eats and others believes that whatever happened violates the terms of your agreement, that alone can get you deactivated.
Most gig companies run background checks on their existing contractors on a regular basis. If any ticket, conviction, accident or violation that's on your record at that time is enough that you no longer pass your background check, that can lead to your contract being ended.
If the incident in question is related to a delivery, there's a higher probability of adverse action. That's because 1), it is more likely to come to the delivery platform's attention, and 2) the activity involved may be considered a violation of the contract because it's related directly to the delivery.
A major component in the independent contractor agreement for all companies is the safety of the platform or of the customers and merchants. If these companies get wind of something they feel is a threat to others or to the reputation of the company, that may be enough for them to activate you.
What kind of incidents can get you deactivated?
Every platform has its own criteria. In fact, criteria for any company can vary depending on the city and state where you live or where the violation happened.
The exact eligibility criteria differs depending on what city they're signing up in, largely based on the laws that apply in their city or state.Uber's explanation of how criteria varies by location in their deactivation page.
We'll look at some of the specifics further down. In general a single major violation is enough to get you deactivated, or a series of minor violations may.
Major violations include violent crimes, driving while intoxicated or impaired, unsafe or reckless driving, vehicular homicide, sexual offenses or inclusion on a sexual offender registry. The list is not limited to only these offenses.
Minor violations typically include normal traffic violations and some misdemeanors. Usually a single speeding ticket isn't going to trigger a deactivation, but a recent history (such as so many violations in a three year period) may be enough.
For instance, you may have been borderline when the last background check was run. If a platform has a limit in your area of three minor violations in a three year period, and you already have two on your record, that ticket for running a red light might be enough to push you over the edge.
How does Doordash evaluate violations?
To their credit, Doordash seems to be the most upfront about what kinds of things can lead to deactivation. Their deactivation policy goes into detail about behaviors that may fail to keep the platform safe and secure.
If the violation, ticket, or accident happens while delivering for Doordash, a number of things involved with that incident could be seen as a violation of the contract including (but not limited to):
- Violent or abusive behavior or abusive language
- Use of alcohol and drugs
- Discrimination or harassment
- Unsafe driving, biking, or scooting
- Violating the law while on the platform
If Doordash determines that any behavior related to the incident violates any of the safety provisions listed, that may be enough for them to deactivate you for a single incident. When it happens while you're on the platform, it doesn't matter if you could otherwise pass a background check.
Doordash isn't specific about what qualifies you to pass a background check. However, in the past they did specify that you couldn't have any major violations in the past seven years, or more than 3 incidents in the past three years.
Doordash has since taken down the specific criteria. This is likely because some city and state laws may mean something different. However it's still a good indication of whether anything in your situation may eventually disqualify you.
What does Grubhub say about if an incident can get you deactivated?
Grubhub is much less specific than Doordash about their deactivations. Unfortunately this means that deactivation decisions may be much more subjective.
Some highlights from their contractor terms of service include:
Couriers may be deactivated for “activities that result in repeated and/or serious complaint(s) from diners and/or restaurants who contact Grubhub to report your delivery services as incomplete, unsafe, unprofessional, or otherwise in violation of Grubhub's standards or harmful to Grubhub's reputation.
The contract specifies that Grubhub may monitor any communications or use of the app. Any communications related to any incidents that are “unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, profane offensive” etc, that are false or misleading, is disruptive or incites others to violence, can all be grounds for termination.
In other words, if any of those things happen during the incident in question while on a delivery, Grubhub may decide you have violated your agreement.
Grubhub does not specify their background check criteria. You can generally assume that a major violation that happens outside the platform will be enough to have you deactivated once it appears on a background check. Minor incidents on their own probably won't get you deactivated unless you already have other minor incidents, violations or tickets.
What does Uber Eats say about things that can get you deactivated?
Uber Eats can actually be a bit more strict about violations because of the fact that they specifically insure you while on the platform. If something happens while logged in, there's a higher probability of something happening.
Because Uber does provide insurance, the bar is set higher. You not only need to pass a background check, but you have to be insurable.
Uber's deactivations page covers both ride-sharing and delivery activities.
If a ticket, accident or other incident happen while on an active delivery and it creates safety issues, that can be cause for deactivation. Some of those safety issues include:
- Dangerous driving
- Impaired or drowsy driving
- Altercations and harassing
- Sexual misconduct or assault
- Use of unapproved or unsafe vehicles.
- Deactivations on other platforms.
There's a bit more of a danger for rideshare drivers on a lot of these things, because with passengers in the car there is a greater possibility that the passenger can report issues.
Uber specifically states on their background check page that qualifications vary from location to location based on local laws. However, if certain serious crimes appear on your background check you could be deactivated.
One thing that is interesting is that Uber also states the following:
Major driving violations or a recent history of multiple minor driving violations, including but not limited to no-fault accients, may result in disqualification.Uber's explanation of violations that can appear on a motor vehicle report.
Uber specifically states that no-fault accidents can be part of a pattern of activity that can get you disqualified. Thus if you're in an accident that wasn't your fault, if you already have other incidents on your record that may be enough for deactivation.
What does Instacart say about what can get you deactivated?
Instacart is harder to find information for than any of the platforms.
In their independent contractor agreement, Instacart states that they can deactivate you for violation of their Shopper Account Access Guidelines.
While on the platform, activities that fail to maintain a safe environment, violation of applicable law or regulation, and sexual harrasment violations can be cause for termination. Safety issues can include:
- Violence or agression
- Theft or shoplifting
- Unwanted verbal, written, or online contact
- Unwanted physical contact, secual conduct, or harrasment of any kind
- Use of alcohol or drugs while providing services
- Property damage
- Conduct that is harassing or discriminatory in nature
- Having someone with you (including minors) who does not have an Instacart Shopper account
- Conduct that jeapordizes food safety
The language is vague enough that a simple parking violation while shopping could be enough to deactivate you. Of course, Instacart would have to know about it.
Instacart is not specific about what background check things could get you deactivated. The guidelines state that “shoppers who fail to meet the safety standards will be denied access to the platform.” Like the others, assume that a single major violation or crime, or a pattern of minor incidents could disqualify you.
How would a delivery service know about such a violation?
Even if an accident, ticket or other violation does occur, and even if it's something that a gig company might deactivate you for, that doesn't mean it would get you deactivated. That company has to know about it first, and then decide to take the time to look into it.
Keep in mind that gig economy companies try to manage as much as they can by algorithm. They want to invest as little human effort into any form of management as possible, because doing otherwise would increase their costs.
While this can be bad news, where you can be deactivated by a computer, it also can be good news. Doordash isn't going constantly all the activities out there looking for whether or not you crossed a line. Uber Eats doesn't have the time to spy on you to see if you got a ticket.
What that means is, in order for any ticket, accident, or other issue to get their attention, it generally has to happen one of three ways:
- It's reported by you
- Someone else reports it
- It shows up on a background check.
An incident is reported by you
Usually this is going to happen if you have contacted support about an incident that's keeping you from completing a delivery. If you contact them and say you've had an accident and can't complete a delivery, that kind of thing puts you on their radar.
Someone else reported it
The highest probability for something like an accident to happen is either at the restaurant or merchant, or at the customer. If a customer is concerned their delivery is late and they see you've been in an accident, that can get reported to customer services.
Sometimes the incident that happened can lead to a complaint from merchants or customers. If a third party discovers you were on a delivery and makes a report, that can get to Instacart support.
Most of these involve incidents that happen while you're on a delivery in some form. However, there's one situation that's unique to Uber Eats where things happen outside the platform can still get Uber's attention.
Remember that Uber provides actual commercial auto insurance while on deliveries. This is very different from companies like Doordash who only has a blanket liability policy, or Instacart and Grubhub who have no coverage at all.
The thing is, insurance companies receive MVR records much more frequently. If an incident means that Uber's insurer feels you are no longer insurable, that information will be forwarded to Uber Eats much more quickly than it normally would.
How long does it take to be deactivated?
This depends on the circumstances and on how long it takes for any incident to come to the attention of the delivery company.
If an incident happens while on a delivery, that it's something that directly violates the terms and conditions, and the company is already aware of it, deactivation can happen immediately or within their review time, often within 48 hours.
If you received a ticket or had some legal violation that the delivery company is not immediately aware of, it can take some time. Usually, the issue has to be legally resolved, either with you pleading guilty or a court determines a verdict against you, before it shows up on your MVR or on a background check.
Then it can be several months, sometimes years, before the next background check is run. If this is a minor violation and you have other such incidents on your record, it may be possible that one of those incidents may have timed out by then.
What can you do to protect yourself against deactivation?
There are a number of things to think about here. Part of it is obviously doing whatever you can to avoid getting into such a situation. Here are some thoughts.
Remember that you're an independent contractor and not an employee.
Doordash isn't your boss. Neither are Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Instacart.
What that means is, there's no obligation to tell them what's happened. If it is something that comes across their system some day either now or in the future, it can happen in its own time.
You do not need to volunteer information about something that happens that's not related to a delivery.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say you don't have to tell them the details even when it happens during a delivery. If something happens en route to the restaurant, simply cancel the delivery. You don't need an explanation.
If you're pulled over or get a ticket while you have delivery items in the food, you want to communicate that there's a delay or that you have some car issues but you're not obligated to give details. I don't believe in lying about things. At the same time, I don't believe you have to volunteer information.
Know when it makes sense to challenge a ticket in court
Usually nothing can be held against you until it has run its course legally. A pending speeding ticket with a court date won't show up on your motor vehicle record until the case has been decided legally.
If there's a pending case for a major crime or violation, that may be a different story. For instance, Uber's background check issues include “any serious criminal charges that are still pending.”
I haven't had a ticket in several years. If I had one today, I'd probably just pay the fine. I could make more money in the time it takes to challenge it than what I'd pay in fines.
Howver, the last ticket I received was a different story. I'd had a couple tickets previously, and another one on the record could seriously impact my insurance (I wasn't a gig worker at the time). So I decided to go to court. The prosecutor offered to plea that down to a violation that didn't take points off my license or that would show up on an MVR report. I accepted that.
Sometimes by either appearing at the trial date, or contacting the court ahead of time, you can either get a similar type of plea or enter a diversion program. That kind of thing keeps it off your record and avoids it showing up on a background check.
Here's the other thing: if you aren't guilty, it may be better to fight it. Maybe it's better to hire an attorney to help you. The cost of doing that may be cheaper than what you lose by not being able to continue your business.
Know when you need legal help.
If the deactivation comes from a background check, you have a number of rights. First, you have the right to see the background check. You also have the right to challenge inaccuracies.
If there's information on the background check that shouldn't be on there, you may have some recourse if the provider (usually a company called Checkr) refuses to change it. If you're in such a situation, it may be worth listening to this episode of The Rideshare Guy with Larry Smith of SmithMarco PC, who specializes in dealing with background checks.
You may have options still if you are deactivated. Bryant Greenling of LegalRideshare.com was on our podcast. His firm offers a deactivation service where they'll write a legal letter on your behalf when there has been a deactivation.
Think about deactivation as losing a customer rather than being fired.
I go back to what I said a few times: You aren't an employee.
Unfortunately because of that you don't have a lot of the protections an employee has. However, you also have a lot of rights that go with operating as a business that an employee doesn't have.
The thing is, as a business, the gig economy companies are your customers. This is important. It means you can have multiple customers. The more you rely on income from your delivery gig, the more you should have multiple customers.
If Doordash decides to no longer use your services, you've simply just lost a customer. You can still deliver with Uber Eats, or Instacart or any other delivery services in your area.
Keep in mind that there is a possibility that an accident or incident that gets you deactivated from one platform can impact you on others. It usually won't all happen at once though. If somehow deactivation does happen with one company, you may want to start making alternative arrangements for replacement income if it happens with other accounts.
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