“Plaintiff Lucia Greco claims that she has documented at least 32 times that she has faced discrimination from Uber drivers because of her guide dog since March 28, 2018.”
A visually impaired California woman has sued Uber Technologies Inc. claiming that the company allows drivers to discriminate against blind and visually disabled passengers who travel with service animals.
In a complaint filed Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Lucia Greco claims that she has documented at least 32 times that she has faced discrimination from Uber drivers because of her guide dog since March 28, 2018. The lawsuit, filed by lawyers at Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway in San Francisco, brings claims against Uber and two California subsidiaries under the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
“Uber can and does suspend—and even terminate—drivers who break its rules, including its rules regarding accessibility for riders with service animals. However, on multiple occasions, Uber has neglected to terminate an offending driver’s association with the App,” Greco’s lawyers wrote. “On other occasions, Uber has opted in its discretion not to appropriately follow up, in clear violation of its own policies. Indeed, on information and belief, Ms. Greco alleges that Uber’s support team knowingly coaches drivers on how to get out of an allegation of discrimination, and often utilizes its discretion to excuse blatant discrimination so as to avoid having to terminate an Uber Driver from the platform,” they wrote.
Greco’s lawyers noted that, after learning that Uber’s terms of service containing an arbitration clause, they filed a demand for arbitration March 27, 2020, with the American Arbitration Association. The complaint says that AAA informed Greco on April 18 that it was declining to move forward with her claim, because Uber had “failed to comply with the AAA’s policies regarding consumer claims.”
Uber representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company reached a settlement with the National Federation of the Blind and three blind passengers in 2016 to settle a prior round of litigation regarding driver discrimination against service animals. There the company agreed to deactivate drivers who didn’t accept ride requests from service animal-assisted blind passengers and to spend up $85,000 to monitor compliance with the agreement over the next five years.
In a phone interview Monday, Tracey Cowan of Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, one of Greco’s lawyers noted that the prior action only sought injunctive relief and left open the possibility of plaintiffs in her client’s position seeking damages. She also said that she thinks Greco’s case is strong whether or not Uber drivers are contractors or, as alleged in the complaint, employees under California law. But she added that she thinks it’s clear after the passage of AB5 and a recent decision in a case against Uber rival Lyft, that ride-sharing drivers are employees. “I think we can get there either way, but this is a way that Uber has tried to shirk responsibility for the actions for their drivers for a long time,” Cowan said.
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