Lawsuit Claims Uber Discriminates against Riders with Disabilities

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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UberThe plaintiffs bringing a class-action lawsuit against Uber claim that the ride-sharing company discriminates against people with disabilities.

As the New York Times reports, the lawsuit was filed in a New York court by Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit organization

Plaintiffs include several disabled individuals, the Brooklyn Center for Independence for the Disabled, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York, and the Taxis for All Campaign.

UberWAV

Uber does offer some wheelchair-accessible vehicles via its UberWAV service. However, the lawsuit claims that the cars with lifts and ramps are only a small fraction of the 58,000 Uber cars available in New York’s five boroughs.

According to the lawsuit, there are fewer than 100 accessible Uber vehicles.

According to the complaint,

Uber, which has a valuation of over $50 billion, has no excuse, other than its deliberate corporate decision to neglect people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, including many elderly people, for maintaining such an overwhelmingly inaccessible fleet.

Also, according to the complaint, the accessible cars aren’t reserved for disabled passengers, and may be unavailable when needed by them.

Uber, of course, does not actually own the cars in its “fleet.”  Uber drivers are independent contractors who own their own vehicles.

A previous discrimination case was brought involving yellow cabs. That case led to a settlement requiring half of all 1,850 yellow cabs in New York to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020.

Incentives

Uber said it had offered special incentives to drivers of accessible cars — $10 per trip and $500 after 40 trips — and also reduced the commissions it takes for these trips.

Uber has also endorsed a proposed New York City law that would add a five cent fee on black car and livery car trips in order to fund incentives to make accessible transportation more widely available.

Human Rights

The suit claims that Uber is violating New York City’s human rights law.

Under the New York Law,

[i]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person who is the owner, franchisor, franchisee, lessor, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place or provider of public accommodation . . . [b]ecause of any person’s actual or perceived . . . disability . . . directly or indirectly . . . [t]o refuse, withhold from or deny to such person the full and equal enjoyment, on equal terms and conditions, of any of the accommodations, advantages, services, facilities or privileges of the place or provider of public accommodation. 

Remedial Plan

The plaintiffs are seeking an order requiring Uber to “develop and implement a remedial plan to ensure full and equal access to its services for riders who require accessible transportation.”

The complaint does not include a claim for violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which I blogged about here.

According to Reuters, similar lawsuits have been filed against Uber in Chicago and Washington, DC.

As I wrote previously, a New York Court refused to enforce Uber’s passenger terms that prohibited class actions and required arbitration.

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