Uber Technologies Inc. was ordered to pay more than $ 1 million in an arbitration case brought by a blind passenger who said she and her seeing eye dog were denied trips more than a dozen times. Lisa Irving, 56, a California resident who said different Uber drivers in San Francisco denied her rides or harassed her 14 times in 2016 and 2017, received damages totaling $ 324,000, plus an additional $ 805,313.45 for attorney fees. and other legal costs. The award is believed to be the largest of its kind, according to his legal team, which presented Thursday to confirm the award in San Francisco Superior Court.
Uber UBER, + 2.97% had affirmed that it is not responsible for the discriminatory behavior of its drivers because it considers them independent contractors, according to the decision of the arbitration judge. While the judge, Rudolph Gerber, recognized that the classification of the workers was “relevant as corroboration,” he ruled that the private transportation giant is “responsible for conduct that violates the ADA on independent federal grounds. “This is a momentous decision,” Adam Wolf, Irving’s attorney, told MarketWatch. In addition to being denied rides, Irving was also abandoned and stranded by drivers at least a couple of times, as well as verbally abused. He feared for his safety and became upset while testifying about the incidents, the judge noted. Also according to the decision in the case, when Irving reported some incidents to Uber and expected the company to investigate them, “their investigators were trained, in some cases, to train drivers to find non-discriminatory reasons for trip denials. “. Gerber noted in its March 18 decision that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in “all areas of public life,” including transportation, regardless of whether services are provided by a contractor. Any violation of the ADA is also a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, it noted in its decision. “Uber is responsible for each of these incidents as interpreted by the Department of Justice of the ADA, as well as due to Uber’s contractual oversight of its drivers and its inability to prevent discrimination by properly training its workers,” he wrote. Gerber. Uber had not returned a request for comment Thursday. Uber’s community guidelines state that “refusing a ride to a passenger because of their service animal may result in loss of access to the Driver app, even if the driver has allergies, religious objections, or fear of animals.” There are other similar pending cases. Wolf is also a lawyer in a case involving another blind woman who says she was denied multiple Uber rides in San Francisco from 2018 to 2020. “My law firm receives calls too often from blind Uber riders who are they denied travel, ”Wolf said. “Hopefully the award in Lisa’s case will demonstrate to ride-sharing companies that they cannot tolerate discrimination, that they must train their passengers until discrimination against blind passengers stops.” There are about 1 million blind people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, about 50,000 use guide dogs, according to the Chicago Lighthouse. The National Federation for the Blind reached a class action settlement with Uber in 2016 regarding its policies on providing rides for the visually impaired, but its terms expired last year. The organization continues to hear that blind people are denied transportation, said Timothy Elder, attorney for the plaintiffs in that case. He said the NFB is now entering into a conversation with Uber about whether more litigation is needed. “In some cases, there are unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Elder told MarketWatch. “For example, drivers denying passengers suggest that they were not wearing face masks. [The pandemic is] being used as a pretext to deny travel “.