Uber agrees to pay disabled riders to settle federal lawsuit

The Justice Department sued Uber last year for charging fees to passengers who took extra time to get into their vehicles.

Uber agreed on Monday to settle a Justice Department lawsuit that accused it of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by charging wait fees to disabled riders who required extra time to get in their cars.

The Justice Department, which filed the suit last year, said Uber had started charging wait time fees in 2016 to passengers who took longer than two minutes to get in their car after it arrived to pick them up. Those fees, the lawsuit said, were also charged to riders whose disabilities required extra time to get in the car, such as blind passengers or those with walkers or wheelchairs.

Under the terms of the settlement, Uber agreed to waive wait time fees for riders who certify that they have a disability, and to refund disabled passengers who are charged for taking too long to enter their cars.

According to the settlement, Uber said it would also pay millions to compensate riders: $1.7 million split among more than 1,000 disabled riders who complained about the wait-time fees and $500,000 to “other harmed individuals” identified by the Justice Department. And the 65,000 riders who signed up for the waiver program will be compensated twice the amount of the wait time fees that they were charged.

“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,” Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement.

In the settlement agreement, Uber denied the Justice Department’s claims. But the company said that it had been working to improve its accessibility options for riders and that the average wait time fee for riders in 2020 was less than 60 cents.

The company said it had already initiated the waiver program being codified by the settlement.

“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,” Noah Edwardsen, an Uber spokesman, said in a statement.