CALIFORNIA — Rideshare company Lyft has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit in California after drivers allegedly denied rides to those with wheelchairs, according to a settlement agreement the U.S. Attorney’s Office released Monday, June 23.
The San Francisco based company will pay $42,000 total in settlements to five individual complainants, $40,000 to the United States as a civil penalty, and has announced several steps to improve those with disabilities’ experiences with Lyft.
The investigation began after an individual filed 12 complaints from 2015 to 2017 alleging Lyft drivers either denied him a ride due or treated him rudely because of his wheelchair. A service member who lost both his legs in combat alleged he was denied a ride due to his collapsible wheelchair. Two more individuals allege in 2018 they were denied rides, one for having a wheelchair, and another for having a walker.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office deemed Lyft to be a public transportation service and “an operator of a demand-responsive transportation service.” Thus, the alleged denial of rides due to disabilities would violate Title III of the Americans with Disability Act which states, “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of specified public transportation services provided by a private entity.”
Lyft denies these discrimination claims and denies being subject to the ADA as they claim Lyft is not an “operator of a demand-responsive transportation service within the meaning of the ADA.”
The settlement agreement details several actions Lyft will take regarding the service of those with disabilities, beginning with modifying its wheelchair policy. Drivers will now be required to assist with the stowing of foldable wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. The new policy also states, “Drivers shall not discriminate against an individual with a disability in providing transportation service.”
Lyft will soon create an educational video regarding their wheelchair policy for drivers, as well as remind drivers in their welcome email and once each quarter of Lyft’s wheelchair policy. Lyft will adopt and implement a complaint procedure for future incidents. If Lyft determines a driver violated their wheelchair policy, Lyft may terminate the driver. $10 credits as well as a refund on any cancelation fees will be given to riders whose driver violates the wheelchair policy.
Previous to the investigation and settlement, Lyft’s wheelchair policy read “passengers who use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the car’s trunk or backseat without obstructing the driver’s view should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft Platform. Drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and their wheelchair.”
Lyft said in a statement, “We’re proud that many people with disabilities who were previously underserved by existing transportation options now use Lyft as a reliable, safe, and affordable way to get around.”