From coast to coast, Uber and Lyft have come under increasing fire from disability rights organizations and have faced litigation because their rideshare practices allegedly discriminate against persons with disabilities. Federal lawsuits were also filed against Lyft and Uber in San Francisco.
In what appears to be the most draconian decision to date, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge ruled on October 6, 2016 that Uber and Lyft repeatedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and issued an order suspending their rideshare services in the City of Brotherly Love. The ramifications of this Order could be felt throughout the United States and Canada, which has similar civil rights laws to protect persons with disabilities.
Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter’s Order in Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority granted plaintiff’s request for an injunction prohibiting the parking authority from authorizing Uber and Lyft from operating in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Complaint alleged that Uber and Lyft systematically failed to provide vehicles which accommodate persons in wheelchairs, routinely refuse to accommodate persons who travel with service animals and charge excessive pricing for such accommodations.
While there are other claims in the lawsuit, Carpenter cited the companies’ noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reason for the cease and desist order.
In a later development, a state court on October 7, 2016 issued an injunction against the ruling that ordered Lyft and Uber to halt operations.
What’s next? Uber and Lyft will likely to continue to pursue legislative solutions to address the myriad issues facing the rideshare industry. Accessibility issues are on that list.
The take-away is that federal courts and Department of Justice have broad powers to force the remedial civil rights requirements of the ADA. As sown above, one rare power is to force a business to close until they become complaint. It is incumbent on businesses to ensure it is in compliance with the ADA before someone else forces the issue.