DOJ Catches Uber in Own Loophole


Uber has a long history of sidestepping the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); but now it appears the Department of Justice (DOJ) has caught the ride-share giant in their own loophole.

In the past the issue has been that Uber violated the ADA by not providing an adequate number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Uber’s “loophole” defense has always been that they are a ┬ámerely a technology company and not a transportation provider, therefore they have no control over the vehicles that are available. And it kind of flew. Until now.

On November 10, 2021 the DOJ filed suit against Uber in the US District Court in Northern California for violating the ADA and discriminating against disabled passengers. And this complaint isn’t about the vehicles. It’s about the “technology company” procedures, which the independent contractor drivers have absolutely no control over.

The complaint alleges a pattern of discrimination, and specifically cites the wait time charge that automatically goes into effect two minutes after the driver arrives to pick up a passenger. The problem is that even though the complainants were waiting outside and rolled right up to their Ubers, it took them five minutes or more to transfer to their vehicle, and have the diver stow their wheelchair in the trunk. They were then automatically charged wait fees. And that’s discrimination under the ADA, because you cannot charge someone more for a service, simply because they are disabled.

It should be noted that Uber drivers don’t have any discretion as far as the wait fees are concerned, and they cannot waive them. This is all automatically done with Uber “technology”.

Of course the complainants asked Uber to reverse the wait fees. Passenger A was told that these fees were automatic and they could not be reversed. Passenger B had a bit more luck, in that they refunded some to him. After that Uber then claimed that he had received the maximum number of allowable refunds, so they could not reverse any more wait fee charges.

The DOJ is asking for a jury trial in this matter. They are asking for injunctive relief from the court, to require Uber to modify their wait time policy, as well as civil penalties, monetary damages and court costs.

Stay tuned. This could get interesting.