Uber Technologies Inc. has been accused of discriminating against people with disabilities by allowing cars to delay or cancel rides for people with special needs, according to a complaint filed by the US Department of Justice.
The ride-hailing company, founded in 2009, uses a cellphone app to help people find nearby rides. That means, according to the complaint, that if someone with a disability requests a car from the app, drivers can ask why the person has requested the ride, according to a person familiar with the filing.
That practice violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which forbids businesses from holding up or rejecting rides for people who are disabled, according to the Justice Department. The report was made public Friday by the Chicago Tribune, which had a chance to review the complaint.
“While other ridesharing services’ policies do not allow for drivers to delay or cancel rides for persons with disabilities,” the Justice Department said in the report, “Uber does not have a specific policy in place prohibiting this practice.”
Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi fired two employees this week over allegations of age discrimination and other sexual harassment.
While these allegations predate Khosrowshahi’s tenure as CEO, they illustrate the growing tensions Uber faces with drivers, regulators and owners of cars used in the service.
San Francisco-based Uber said in a statement that the Justice Department found that no rider or driver complained of discriminatory practices.
“Uber works closely with disability advocates to design our rider and driver-partner experience so that both passengers and drivers have the ability to travel with people of all abilities,” the company said.
Uber said it supports efforts to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and work to improve the accessibility of all transportation options.
After several lawsuits alleging the company was providing rides by wrecking customers’ disabled-accessible cars were settled, the San Francisco taxi company responded to criticism by adopting new policies.
In June 2015, Uber said that it would allow any driver without a disabled-accessible vehicle to pick up a fare with an accessible vehicle provided by a third party. Uber, then the most heavily used ride-hailing service in the US, said at the time that it wouldn’t use the cars on the road.
Since then, Uber has increased the number of drivers with disabled-accessible vehicles.