Uber to face discrimination suit for refusing to transport guide dogs

20 Apr 2015

Uber is facing a fresh legal battle after a judge in San Jose, California ruled it must defend itself against a lawsuit that claims the company is discriminating against blind people.

Reuters reports that US Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins told the plaintiffs in the case on Friday (17 April)  that they could pursue a claim that the ride-sharing app is a ‘travel service’ and, therefore, subject to provisions laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Federal law requires operators of taxi services to carry guide dogs for blind riders, but the plaintiffs – who include the National Federation of the Blind of California claim they know of more than 40 instances in which Uber drivers have refused to take guide dogs.

In two such cases, the drivers allegedly shouted “no dogs” at riders. Another driver allegedly locked a woman’s guide dog in the trunk of his car and refused her calls to pull over when she realised what had happened.

The judge rejected Uber’s arguments that the plaintiffs lack the standing to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws. The company has been given two weeks to formally respond to the complaint.

Driving from crisis to crisis

Uber has been steering its way through controversy after controversy in recent months. The alleged rape of a woman in Delhi by an Uber driver last December saw the city ban the app, with countries such as Spain and The Netherlands following suit.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles and San Francisco (the app’s hometown) filed lawsuits accusing Uber of “making false or misleading statements to consumers and for engaging in a variety of business practices that violate California law”.

“Uber has refused to comply with straightforward California laws that protect consumers from fraud and harm,” Gascon and Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “These companies can be innovative in the way they deliver services without ignoring the laws that protect the public.”

Uber has also faced criticism for its hiring policies and sexist marketing campaigns in some parts of the world.

Still, it remains a popular choice for many people, and has exerted such a grip on New York that the number of Uber cars on the road now outnumbers the city’s iconic yellow cabs.

Guide dog image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic