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On Monday, July 18, Uber committed to a multimillion dollar settlement with the Department of Justice over an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit was filed in 2021 in response to a wait-time fee that allegedly discriminated against disabled passengers. The wait-time fee would automatically charge passengers two minutes after the Uber’s arrival at the pickup location, and the charge continued accumulating until the Uber began its trip. The fee was introduced in 2016 in several cities and eventually expanded to become a nationwide policy. Of course, the fee took a greater toll on people using a walker or wheelchair or anyone who needed additional time to board the Uber.
The Justice Department argued the fee discriminated against disabled passengers and violated the ADA. The lawsuit’s purpose was to ensure disabled passengers could “live their lives with independence and dignity, as the ADA guarantees,” Acting US Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California said in a statement. The lawsuit also 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.”
The settlement comes as a win for many disabled people who rely on Uber and other ride-share services to work, travel, and access their communities. “Ensuring equal access to transportation for those with disabilities is an important goal of the ADA,” Hinds said in a statement. “People with disabilities must have access to ridesharing services provided by Uber and similar companies without enduring discriminatory wait time fees. This agreement removes that barrier to equal access for passengers with disabilities and provides a mechanism to compensate those harmed by Uber’s past wait time fee policy.”
Under the settlement agreement, Uber will pay $1,738,500 to over a thousand disabled passengers who were charged wait fees, plus $500,000 to other impacted individuals. In addition, Uber has committed to offer several million dollars to over 65,000 Uber passengers who were charged fees related to their disabilities. Finally, Uber has agreed to update its wait-time policy and will waive these fees for disabled passengers who can “certify” that they, or someone they regularly travel with (for example, a care provider), need more than two minutes to board an Uber.
“People with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber’s wait time fee policy did,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said. “This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities. The Civil Rights Division remains committed to enforcing the ADA and ensuring that people with disabilities can travel free from barriers and indignities.”