Uber was sued by the Department of Justice on Wednesday. It claimed that Uber discriminated against people with disabilities by charging extra for passengers who need more time to board and approach a vehicle. Uber refuted this claim.
The logo for Uber car-sharing company is displayed on the passenger side windshield in a vehicle in San Francisco, California on October 13, 2017. Getty Images
The Key Facts
In the lawsuit, Uber claims that charging customers for waiting time violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is because disabled passengers may require extra time to store or board their walkers or wheelchairs. While drivers have the right to refuse to pay the late fee, the DOJ says that Uber has not made it clear. Some fees have been refunded, but others remain in place. Two people with mobility issues were named in the suit. One person who relied upon Uber to transport her to rehabilitation appointments was cited by the DOJ. She claimed that Uber's late fees made it feel like she was a second-class citizen. The DOJ requested that a judge order Uber to amend its late fee policy, provide ADA training for staff, and pay a fine. Uber said the lawsuit was "surprising" and "disappointing". The company denied that its late fees violate the ADA and stated it will refund charges to customers with disabilities. Uber announced that it began waiving late fees automatically for passengers who have voluntarily declared they have a disability last week.
In a statement, Stephanie Hinds, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California stated that passengers with disabilities who require additional boarding time can access ridesharing services without discrimination.
Uber stated in its statement that it recognizes the importance of Uber's services for disabled riders.
In 2016, Uber piloted fees for customers who took more than two minutes to get to their cars in certain U.S. cities. Uber began piloting fees for customers who take more than two minutes to reach their vehicles in certain U.S. cities in 2016. The company claimed that this policy allowed drivers, whose pay is partly based on driving time and distance, to be compensated if they arrive late or are forced to wait. Uber says the average wait fee is under $0.60, and the policy doesn't apply to the company's wheelchair-accessible vehicles or to a separate program for riders who need extra assistance.
In recent years, Uber and Lyft, its ride-hailing rival Lyft, have been subject to numerous legal challenges. A four-year-old lawsuit from two New Orleans residents alleges Uber violated the ADA by not offering wheelchair-accessible rides in their city, an arbitrator ordered Uber to pay more than $1 million in April after a blind California woman said she and her guide dog were repeatedly denied rides, and Uber and Lyft have drawn some lawsuits from customers who accused drivers of sexual assault. Some drivers and regulators are suing the companies over their decision to classify their drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees with benefits. California approved a ballot measure that exempted gig economy drivers -- such as Uber and Lyft - from a 2019 state law declaring them employees. However, a state court ruled in August that the measure violated California’s constitution.