Justice Department sues Uber over 'wait time' fees for disabled passengers
Lawsuit alleges company charged disabled passengers who need more than 2 minutes to get in
The Justice Department sued Uber Wednesday, claiming the company charged "wait time" fees to physically disabled customers who took more than two minutes to get into the vehicle.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, claims the ride-sharing service violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the lawsuit calls for the court to order the company to comply with federal law that protects disabled people from discrimination and implement policies which adhere to the needs of disabled passengers.
The suit targets Uber for its April 2016 "policy of charging passengers wait time fees" with no exceptions to disabled passengers "who take longer than two minutes to board or load into the vehicle."
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"People with disabilities deserve equal access to all areas of community life, including the private transportation services provided by companies like Uber," Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said in a statement.
"This lawsuit seeks to bring Uber into compliance with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act while sending a powerful message that Uber cannot penalize passengers with disabilities simply because they need more time to get into a car," Clarke added.
In a statement issued to Fox News, an Uber spokesperson said the company had been in "active discussions" with the DOJ prior to the "disappointing lawsuit."
"Wait time fees are charged to all riders to compensate drivers after two minutes of waiting but were never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location but need more time to get into the car," the spokesperson said. "We recognize that many riders with disabilities depend on Uber for their transportation needs, which is why we had been in active discussions with the DOJ about how to address any concerns or confusion before this surprising and disappointing lawsuit."
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The spokesperson also said the company's policy has been to "refund wait time fees for disabled riders whenever they alerted us that they were charged." The company also said it is working to change how the fees are assessed, telling Fox News that "now any rider who certifies they are disabled will have fees automatically waived."
"We fundamentally disagree that our policies violate the ADA and will keep improving our products to support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities," the company added.