Uber drivers who refuse to transport passengers with service animals may soon be ousted from the platform, according to new policies the ride-hailing company is adopting as part of a lawsuit settlement with the National Federation of the Blind.
As part of the settlement, which was granted preliminary approval on Wednesday by the U.S. District Court in Northern California, the San Francisco firm has also agreed to train its customer service employees on how to handle alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, report anonymized data of alleged violations to the plaintiffs' attorney, and agree to compliance testing over the next 3½ years.
When the settlement receives final approval, current and new drivers must agree to transport riders with service animals to keep driving for the company.
"Allergies and religious objections are not exceptions," reads the proposed text that drivers would see. "Uber will terminate its contractual relationship with any drivers who refuse to transport riders with service animals as required by governing law."
In addition to the policy changes, Uber will pay $45,000 to the Disability Rights Advocates Client Trust account, and $225,000 to the National Federation of the Blind to support its testing program.
In granting preliminary approval, the judge in the case described the settlement as "fair, adequate, and reasonable."
The National Federation of the Blind sued Uber in 2014 on behalf of all blind individuals in California who use a service animal and were denied rides. The lawsuit came after some members of the group were refused service by Uber drivers who did not want to have guide dogs in their cars.