Lyft Settles ADA Complaints, Agrees to Pay Damages and Change Policy

Lyft settled an Americans with Disabilities Act case brought by the United States Monday after the rideshare company was accused of discriminating against riders with disabilities The DOJ received the administrative complaint, which was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Under the agreement, Lyft will “not exclude persons with disabilities from participation in, or deny them benefits of, transportation services, to the extent required by applicable laws.” Lyft will also modify its wheelchair policy within 30 days to “specify that Drivers are required to assist with the stowing of foldable or collapsible mobility devices used by individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers.” It will also forbid drivers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.

Lyft will also implement a program within 90 days to educate drivers about its wheelchair policy, including by including it in its welcome letter to new drivers.  Lyft must also create and publicize an educational video about its wheelchair policy. Additional measures that Lyft must take include training employees to process, investigate, and respond to complaints relating to the company’s wheelchair policy. If a driver violates the policy, Lyft must respond appropriately, including addressing the driver and providing a refund or credit to the rider. Lyft must provide written reports every six months to the U.S. describing its actions and progress and it must notify the United States if it is sued for ADA discrimination.

Lyft must pay a civil penalty of $40,000. Lyft will also provide monetary relief to the complainants. After this agreement Lyft will have 21 days to fix any alleged violation.

The ADA states that “[n]o 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 that is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people and whose operations affect commerce.” This discrimination can include “refusing to provide service to individuals with disabilities who can use taxi vehicles, refusing to assist with the stowing of mobility devices, and charging higher fares or fees for carrying individuals with disabilities and their equipment than are charged to other persons.” The ADA requires transportation personnel to be trained to assist individuals with disabilities and to designate at least one person to comply with the statute. The United States asserted that Lyft provides public transportation within the meaning in U.S. statutes. However, Lyft denied that it is subject to ADA and denied that it provides public transportation as defined in the ADA.

Previously, Lyft’s wheelchair policy said “[p]assengers 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’s website also stated information about how to help passengers with disabilities and how to load foldable or collapsible wheelchairs. The United States claimed that Lyft drivers were not required to review this policy, nor did it have a process “to educate Drivers regarding the safe operation of vehicles and equipment and proper assistance and treatment of individuals with disabilities who use the Lyft platform.” Furthermore, complainant J.H., who uses a wheelchair for his physical impairment and has a disability as specified under that ADA, stated that on “multiple occasions Lyft drivers repeatedly denied him a ride because he had a collapsible wheelchair.” J.H. added that he filed at least 12 complaints with Lyft for drivers’ refusal or inability to transport him because of his wheelchair. Another complainant, M.H., asserted that she was denied a ride because she has a walker, and complainants D.L. and R.N. also claimed that they were denied Lyft rides because they had collapsible wheelchairs.

This agreement is in effect for three years.