The Department of Justice filed a multi-million-dollar settlement agreement with Uber Technologies Inc. to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the agreement, Uber will offer several million dollars in compensation to more than 65,000 Uber users who were charged discriminatory fees due to disability.
In November 2021, the department filed a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination by private transportation companies like Uber.
According to the complaint, in April 2016, Uber began charging passengers wait time fees in a number of cities, eventually expanding the policy nationwide. The wait time fees started two minutes after the Uber car arrived at the pickup location and were charged until the car began its trip.
The department’s complaint alleged that Uber violated the ADA by failing to reasonably modify its wait time fee policy for passengers who, because of disability, needed more than two minutes to get in an Uber car. 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. Or a passenger who is blind may need additional time to safely walk from the pickup location to the car itself. The department’s lawsuit alleged that, even when Uber was aware that passengers’ need for additional time was clearly disability-based, Uber started charging a wait time fee at the two-minute mark.
Under the two-year agreement, Uber has committed to waive wait time fees for all Uber riders who certify that they (or someone they frequently travel with) need more time to get in an Uber car because of a disability. Uber also will ensure that refunds are easily available for anyone who does not have a waiver and is charged a wait time fee because of disability. Uber will advertise the wait time fee waiver program and train its customer service representatives on the waiver program and refund process to ensure that people with disabilities are not charged illegal fees.
Additionally, Uber will credit the accounts of more than 65,000 eligible riders who signed up for the waiver program for double the amount of wait time fees they were ever charged, which could amount to potentially hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation.
Uber will also pay $1,738,500 to more than one thousand riders who complained to Uber about being charged wait time fees because of disability, and $500,000 to other harmed individuals identified by the department.
This litigation was handled jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney David DeVito for the Northern District of California and the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section.
James Whitlach is a former real estate agent who was affiliated with defendant Premier Valley, Inc., doing business as Century 21 MM,, a real estate brokerage firm