This week an Uber driver left a women in labor without a ride to the hospital.
David Lee, 37, along with his wife (who wants to remain anonymous) and her birthing coach were in need of a ride to the hospital. She had just gone in to labor but the first time parents had a plan. They grabbed their overnight bag, got the birthing coach ready and called for an Uber ride to avoid hospital parking.
When the Uber driver showed up to their New York apartment building he saw that Mrs. Lee had been sick on the sidewalk. It was only a three mile drive from their apartment to the hospital but the Uber driver refused to take them. He told them that if she were to be sick in his car he would lose $1,000 every day that his car was out of commission. The driver also told them that they would be unlikely to find another driver that would take them to the hospital!
The Lee family begged and even offered to pay for professional cleaning if Mrs. Lee were to be sick! The driver refused, and even charged them $13 for wasting his time before driving off.
David ended up calling a second Uber car that took them to the hospital without a complaint. They are now the parents of a healthy baby boy but won’t forget the hassle of getting to the delivery room.
David is a lawyer and is well aware of his rights as a person paying for a service. He said
“I don’t blame Uber for one driver’s poor actions, since bad apples can appear in any organization, but I do think that when a company has a culture of bullying their way past laws and regulations, as Uber seems to do, they begin to think they can act with impunity in anything. Uber should have clarified their policies on drivers and women in labor, and confirmed that the driver received appropriate disciplinary action. I’m fortunate enough to know my rights and have access to resources, but I feel for the person who is not as lucky.”
Uber responded to the Lee family by refunding the $13 and issuing a statement. It read:
“Denying service to a passenger in labor is unacceptable: it goes against our code of conduct and the standard of service our riders rely on. We extend our deepest apologies to both riders and have taken action to respond to this complaint. We are glad that the rider’s next driver was professional and courteous.”
Emily Martin is the general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, DC. She says that city and state laws in New York assert that it is illegal for drivers to refuse service to a woman in labor. She said:
“Uber drivers are bound by the same public accommodation laws that prohibit New York City taxi drivers and car services from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy when deciding who they will pick up—and those laws are a good thing, as they help ensure that not many babies end up being born on New York City sidewalks.”
This isn’t the first time that Uber has faced accusations of discrimination. Last year Uber drivers were accused of refusing service to disabled passengers and passengers with service animals!
Luckily for the Lee family, everything worked out and their family is safe and sound. Hopefully the Uber driver will be held accountable in some way.