US sues Uber, saying it discriminates against people with disabilities
SAN FRANCISCO — The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Uber on Wednesday, accusing the company of discriminating against riders with disabilities by charging them fees when they need more time to enter ride vehicles.
The lawsuit stems from a fee policy Uber set in 2016 to compensate drivers who waited more than two minutes for a passenger to arrive. The company previously did not pay drivers for their time until the trip began, frustrating those who sometimes had to wait long periods for passengers.
But the Justice Department said Uber did not adjust its waiting time fees for people with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination by private carriers. The Justice Department said a passenger may need time to smash a wheelchair or walker into the vehicle, or a blind passenger may need additional time to walk into the vehicle. The lawsuit said that even when Uber learned that someone needed extra time due to a disability, the company charged a waiting fee after two minutes.
“Uber and other companies that provide transportation services must ensure equal access for all people, including those with disabilities,” Kristen Clark, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.
Uber said Wednesday that it was in discussions with the Department of Justice about its waiting time policies, which were only for riders who kept drivers waiting and not for riders who needed extra time to get in the car. The company said it had refunded passengers with disabilities who had informed the company that they had been charged. Last week, it also updated its policy to automatically waive waiting time fees for passengers who said they were disabled.
Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Uber, said in a statement that the lawsuit was “surprising and disappointing.” He added, “We do not fundamentally agree that our policies violate the ADA and will continue to improve our products to support everyone’s ability to easily navigate their communities.”
The Department of Justice previously investigated Lyft for allowing its drivers to refuse to board passengers using wheelchairs or pedestrians. Lift Settlement of allegations It agreed last year to review its wheelchair policies, pay $4,000 to $30,000 in compensation to four passengers and pay a $40,000 civil fine.
The Department of Justice previously screened Uber for data breaches in 2014 and 2016 Agency indicted former Uber executive trying to hide the 2016 hack from federal investigators.
The new lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks a court order to prevent Uber from discriminating against people with disabilities. It also asks the court to require Uber to change its waiting time policy for people with disabilities, train its employees and drivers on the Americans with Disabilities Act, pay compensation to customers affected by the waiting time policy and pay a civil fine.