On November 10, 2021, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”) alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, alleges that Uber violated the ADA by failing to modify its wait-time policy. This lawsuit is one of the many ADA Title III lawsuits filed in recent years. According to an annual study, ADA Title III lawsuits are at an all time high with 6,304 cases being filed across the country. Employers should be aware of this trend of cases to better examine their own policies and analyze how the policies are impacting disabled employees and customers.
Uber’s wait-time policy is as follows: If the Uber is waiting for a customer for longer than two minutes, Uber starts charging the customer a wait-time fee. The wait-time policy does not make any exceptions for individuals with disabilities who need more than two minutes to get into the vehicle for many reasons. For example, if an individual uses a wheelchair and is loading the wheelchair into the car, then, this individual would be charged the wait-time fee despite the fact that the individual was present at the Uber and was only taking the additional time to load the wheelchair and enter the vehicle safely. The Complaint alleges that when passengers with wheelchairs would request a refund for the wait-time fee, Uber would respond and state that the wait-time fees were automatic and therefore Uber could not do anything about the wait-time fees.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that this wait-time policy discriminated against individuals with disabilities in violation of the ADA, specifically, 42 U.S.C. 12188(b)(1)(B). The DOJ is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages, and a penalty against Uber. The DOJ specifically asks for Uber to modify the wait-time policy and to provide ADA training to its officers, agents, employees, drivers, and all others in connection to the implementation of the wait-time policy.
Employers across the country should take note of the rise of Title III ADA lawsuits, specifically the Uber lawsuit. Policies that could be in place to protect the employees’ efficiency and protect the bottom line could likely be disregarding the ADA considerations and how the policy impacts individuals with disabilities. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to view human resources issues through multiple different lenses of analysis and to consult with counsel before implementing a policy change.
Bugbee and Conkle, LLP is experienced with counseling employers regarding ADA compliance and defending employers regarding violations of the ADA. Please reach out to Bugbee and Conkle with any questions you may have regarding ADA compliance.