Uber’s policies that cover passengers with disabilities has landed the company in hot water with federal officials. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the rideshare company for charging disabled passengers “wait time” fees because they need more than the two minutes that Uber uses as a default to get into a vehicle.
The lawsuit claims that the policy dates back to April 2016, when the company began charging riders wait times in a number of cities. The DOJ says the extra fee violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires companies to make reasonable modifications in policies and procedures that might deny equal access to individuals with disabilities.
The department’s lawsuit alleges that Uber starts charging a wait time fee at the two-minute mark even when it’s plain and clear that a passenger’s need for extra time is disability-based.
“Passengers with disabilities may need additional time to enter a car for various reasons. A passenger may, for example, use a wheelchair or walker that needs to be broken down and stored in the car,” the DOJ stated. “Or a passenger who is blind may need additional time to safely walk from the pickup location to the car itself.”
While Uber has yet to comment on the wait time fee allegation directly, it may try to fight back against the DOJ’s accusations. On its website, the company claims that its technology and the transportation provided by drivers “has transformed mobility for many people with disabilities, and we’re committed to continuing to develop technologies that support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities.”
DOJ demands that Uber change its practices
The DOJ is asking the court to order Uber to stop putting individuals with disabilities at a disadvantage by modifying its wait time fee policy to abide by the ADA. It’s also asking that Uber be required to educate both its staff and its drivers on the ADA, pay money damages to people subjected to the illegal wait time fees, and pay a civil penalty.
The agency left the door open for the suit to apply to “other companies that provide transportation services, but fail to ensure equal access for all people, including those with disabilities.” According to NPR, both Lyft and Uber have been part of similar lawsuits in New York City, Chicago, and other cities. The companies previously claimed that they are exempt from the ADA because they are technology companies and not transportation companies.
The DOJ is asking consumers who believe they have been discriminated against by Uber because of a disability to contact it by phone at 833-591-0425. Consumers can also send an email to Uber.Fee@usdoj.gov to provide information.