Uber Technologies Inc. will pay millions of dollars to settle claims by the U.S. Department of Justice that the ride-hailing giant discriminates against disabled passengers who need additional time to get into a car.
Uber will compensate more than 65,000 passengers who were levied a “wait-time” fee for taking too long to board a vehicle, the DOJ said in a statement. Accounts of eligible riders who signed up for the waiver program will be credited double the amount of wait time fees they were charged, which could amount to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation, the DOJ estimates.
The San Francisco-based company will also pay $1,738,500 to more than a thousand riders who complained to Uber about being charged wait time fees because of disability, and $500,000 to other affected passengers.
In November, the Justice Department sued Uber, saying its failure to “make reasonable modifications” to its wait-time policy and ensure “equitable fares” for passengers with disabilities who need additional time to board a car is discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint was filed in a San Francisco federal court.
“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 in a statement Monday.
Under the two-year agreement, Uber will 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 vehicle 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.
“We’re pleased to have reached this agreement with the Department of Justice, and look forward to continuing to help everyone move easily around their communities,” an Uber spokesman said in a statement. “It has long been our policy to refund wait time fees for riders with a disability when they alerted us that they were charged, and prior to this matter being filed we made changes so that any rider who shares that they have a disability would have wait time fees waived automatically.”
The extra wait fees are charged to riders who take more than two minutes to board an UberX ride and more than five minutes for Uber Black or SUV trips. Uber said the fees compensate drivers for their time, adding that the average fee charged to riders in 2020 was less than 60 cents.
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