DOJ Sues Uber for Discriminatory Fees on Passengers with Disabilities

A lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California on Wednesday contends that Uber Technologies Inc. violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with its “wait time” fees that are imposed on passengers with disabilities who require more time to board a waiting vehicle.

The Department of Justice seeks an order requiring Uber to comply with the ADA, modify its practices, and seeks an award of monetary damages, including compensatory damages for emotional distress and other injuries suffered by aggrieved Uber riders. 

The complaint explained that Uber’s private ride-hailing service provides several billion rides per year. In April 2016, Uber is said to have initiated a policy of charging passengers wait time fees, first in limited locations, then nationwide. “Under this policy, Uber charges wait time fees starting two minutes after the Uber vehicle arrives at the pickup location, and the fees are charged until the vehicle begins its trip,” the complaint said.

This practice reportedly contravenes the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination in services provided by private entities, such as Uber. The ride hailing company has allegedly “failed to (1) ensure adequate vehicle boarding time for passengers with disabilities; (2) ensure equitable fares for passengers with disabilities; and (3) make reasonable modifications to its policies and practices of imposing wait time fees as applied to passengers who, because of disability, require more time to board the vehicle,” the pleading said.

The complaint provided two specific examples illustrating how the policy discriminates against some riders. One shares the experience of a 52-year-old woman with quadriplegia who was charged wait time fees to and from her daily rehabilitation appointments. When the woman complained to Uber, a company representative told her that Uber could not do anything to prevent the fees from being charged if she exceeded the two-minute time limit for any reason.

As such, the woman reportedly received no refund and said that the company’s policy made her feel “like a second-class citizen.” The complaint seeks reprieve on behalf of all people with disabilities who were similarly charged wait time fees.