Justice Department sues Uber for allegedly charging ‘wait time’ fees to disabled passengers

On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Uber for its practice of charging ‘wait time fees’ to those who need more time to enter the vehicle due to a disability.

In a statement, the agency alleged that the company began charging “wait time fees” in April 2016. It began in certain cities, but eventually spread throughout the nation. The fee begins two minutes after the car arrives at the location and ends once the car leaves for the destination. 

The DOJ lodged the suit, in a complaint against Uber for not abiding by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals with disabilities may need more than two minutes to get to and inside of the car, and by not modifying the policy for those passengers, the department says the ADA is being violated. Uber allegedly does not make the modifications, even when the company is aware of a customer’s disability.

The agency is seeking relief from the court that will include a formal order Uber to end its disability discrimination practices. The Department would also like to see Uber change its policies to comply with the ADA, train its staff and drivers on the ADA, pay damages to anyone with a disability who was subjected to the wait time fees, and pay a civil penalty.

“People with disabilities deserve equal access to all areas of community life, including the private transportation services provided by companies like Uber,” Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said. “This lawsuit seeks to bring Uber into compliance with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act while sending a powerful message that Uber cannot penalize passengers with disabilities simply because they need more time to get into a car. Uber and other companies that provide transportation services must ensure equal access for all people, including those with disabilities.”

Stephanie M. Hinds, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California said, “Uber’s wait time fees take a significant toll on people with disabilities. Passengers with disabilities who need additional boarding time are entitled to access ridesharing services without discrimination. This lawsuit seeks to assist people with disabilities to live their lives with independence and dignity, as the ADA guarantees.”  

Uber has denied that it has instituted any policies that are in violation of the ADA. The company alleged that the fee was meant not for passengers needing more time to get in the car, but for those who choose to make the driver wait longer than necessary.

The company stated, “We recognize that many riders with disabilities depend on Uber for their transportation needs, which is why we had been in active discussions with the DOJ about how to address any concerns or confusion before this surprising and disappointing lawsuit.” Additionally, they said the policy had been changed last week to waive fees for those who prove they have proven they have a disability and had previously refunded those passengers.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The DOJ asked anyone who believes they have been a victim of disability discrimination from Uber to contact the DOJ and ADA. 




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