In three ADA-related cases over the past eight months, in California, Texas, and Arizona, Uber has been slammed with lawsuits that allege the company discriminates against blind and wheelchair-using passengers. The suits demand Uber abide by the ADA, but Uber claims that because it’s a technology company, not a transportation service, it doesn’t fall under the ADA’s jurisdiction.
Uber is currently settling a suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind in California last September. The complaint outlines “systemic civil rights violations” committed by Uber against blind passengers who require guide dogs. It mentions 40 cases in which UberX drivers refused to pick up people with service animals, as well as instances of animal abuse, including one case where a woman’s guide dog was locked in the trunk of a car.
“Uber representatives often respond to these complaints by denying responsibility for the discrimination,” the filing reads. The practice, it continued, was a violation of both the ADA and state law, as Uber functions as a taxi service.
But Uber describes its drivers as independent contractors, and says it therefore is unable to control their actions. In its response to the complaint, lawyers for Uber wrote: “Defendants deny that Uber offers a taxi service or that Uber has a fleet of drivers.” It added that Uber does not have the legal or contractual duty to control compliance with the law.
Uber's stance reminds of the "I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!" protestations of Napster, KaZaa, and other file-sharing services when they were (correctly) accused of enabling piracy.