Uber has been ordered to pay $1.1 million after more than a dozen of the company’s drivers discriminated against a blind woman and her guide dog.
According to Lisa Irving, a California resident, she was denied rides or verbally abused by drivers 14 times in 2016 and 2018: “I felt demeaned, humiliated, devalued, embarrassed, angered, frustrated, and violated.” She also claimed some rides she was denied resulted in her being late to work, which “contributed to her separation from her employer.” According to the arbitrator’s award posted online, Irving was awarded $324,000 in damages and more than $800,000 in attorneys fees and court fees.
Uber argued that it was not responsible for its drivers’ violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they are independent contractors, but that argument was rejected by the arbitrator. According to the award, “Whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors, Uber is nonetheless subject to the ADA as a result of its contractual relationship with its drivers.”
An Uber spokesperson provided a statement to CNN, upholding the company’s disagreement with the award: “We are proud Uber’s technology has helped people who are blind obtain rides and regret Ms. Irving’s experience. Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action.”
Irving’s lawyer, however, had the following to say: “Of all Americans who should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who stand to benefit the most. However, the track record of major rideshare services has been spotty at best and openly discriminatory at worst. The bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.”
This is not the first time Uber has been subjected to a lawsuit related to the ADA. In 2016, the rideshare company settled a suit filed by the National Federation of the Blind to ensure passengers with guide dogs are given equal access to its rideshare services.
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