Uber has settled with the Department of Justice over allegations that it discriminated against disabled passengers, the DOJ announced in a press release on Monday. As part of the agreement, Uber will credit double the total wait fees issued to the 65,000 disabled riders already identified by Uber’s programs and commit more than $2 million to funds for other affected individuals.
The claims center on Uber’s wait fee policy, which adds additional fees when a passenger takes more than two minutes to board the car. Disabled riders have long objected to the policy, claiming the fees disproportionately affect riders with physical disabilities.
While the fees themselves are typically under a dollar, plaintiffs argued they contributed to a broader system of discrimination. The lawsuit mentions a 52-year-old Florida woman who, because of a disabling spinal injury, routinely required five minutes or longer to board a vehicle. As a result, she incurred a running string of wait fees, which “makes [her] feel like a second-class citizen,” the lawsuit states.
Reached for comment, Uber emphasized its commitment to equal accommodations for disabled users. “We’re pleased to have reached this agreement,” said Uber representative Carissa Simons. “We are always working to improve accessibility for all users and encourage riders with a disability to utilize our self-declaration form to have wait time fees waived.”
Affected Uber users can apply for a wait fee refund or waiver through Uber’s help system.
The settlement indemnifies Uber from future disability claims concerning its wait fee system — but it’s far from the only disability claim facing the company. Broadly, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires any transportation systems built after 1990 to provide equal access to people with disabilities. Apps like Uber and Lyft have struggled to meet the law’s broad mandate, particularly in ensuring the availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Shortly before the Department of Justice lawsuit filed suit in 2021, Uber instituted a “wait waiver” program to reimburse disabled riders who have been hit with wait fees — but the change was too late to forestall the suit. Nevertheless, the settlement builds on Uber’s existing waiver system, requiring Uber to continue the wait waiver program for as long as its wait fee policy remains in place.
Uber will also commit to keeping that information hidden from drivers to avoid discrimination in terms of which rides are accepted. As the settlement puts it, the company “will not share information regarding whether a rider’s account is exempt from wait time fees with drivers and will not make such information visible to drivers on the Uber driver app.”
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