Uber has been ordered to pay $1.1m (£795,000) to a blind woman who was refused rides on 14 occasions.
Arbitrator rebuffed the company’s position that it wasn’t liable for drivers’ behavior given their status as contractors
Lisa Irving said on some occasions, drivers were verbally abusive, or harassed her about transporting her guide dog, Bernie, in the car.
One driver allegedly cut her trip short after falsely claiming to have arrived at her destination.
An independent arbitrator ruled Uber’s drivers had illegally discriminated against her due to her condition.
It rejected Uber’s claim that the company itself was not liable, because, it argued, its drivers had the status of contractors rather than employees.
Mrs Irving, from San Francisco, said she had worried about her safety after being stranded multiple times late at night due to being rejected by drivers.
She also alleged that cancelled rides also led to her being late for work, which contributed to her being fired from her job.
The behaviour from drivers continued despite her complaining to Uber, she said.
An Uber spokesperson said the company disagreed with the award and said its community guidelines prohibit drivers denying rides to passengers with service animals.
“We are proud Uber’s technology has helped people who are blind obtain rides and regret Ms. Irving’s experience. Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action,” the company said in a statement.In addition to being denied rides, Irving said some drivers who came to pick her up became verbally abusive towards her and her service dog Bernie, according to the award.She alleged some rides she was denied led her to be late to work and “contributed to her separation from her employer,” according to the award. Irving said she felt unsafe because of at least one driver’s behavior, according to the award.
“[The driver] yelled at her to get out of his car at least fifteen times, at one point pulling over to demand she get out in a dangerous area, making her feel helpless by his intimidation and threats,” the arbitrator wrote.Irving filed complaints against the drivers with Uber, according to the award.
“I felt demeaned, humiliated, devalued, embarrassed, angered, frustrated and violated,” Irving said in a video statement.
She was awarded $324,000 in damages and more than $800,000 in attorney fees and court costs,
She alleged some rides she was denied led her to be late to work and “contributed to her separation from her employer,” according to the award.