Total Transit Inc., an Arizona taxi company, recently agreed to settle a lawsuit accusing it of disability discrimination.
A taxi firm in Arizona recently decided to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed against it by agreeing to stop “charging an additional fee for accessible van customers.” The lawsuit was filed back in 2015 by the Arizona Center for Disability Law against Total Transit Inc. over allegations that the company illegally discriminated against people with disabilities. Rose Daly-Rooney, the legal director for the Arizona Center for Disability, led the charge with the suit.
According to Daly-Rooney, Total Transit Inc. said it will “no longer impose that $10 charge for an on-demand van.” It’s important to note, however, that the deal only affects Total Transit and its companies, including “NExT, the National Express Transit corp.” However, Daly-Rooney is hopeful that the latest settlement “will serve as a wake-up call for other taxi firms that still try to charge extra for people who need an accessible van.”
The suit itself was filed on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America and two people who require the use of power wheelchairs. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs said their clients “require a taxi that has a ramp or lift to be able to get in.” They added that “Total Transit Inc., operating at the time under the name Discount Cab, provided them, but only if the customer paid that $10 charge for each trip.” As a result, the attorneys claimed the fee violated state and federal disability laws.
Total Transit, now operating as Total Ride, originally pushed back against the allegations and even filed a counterclaim. It argued that “barring it from charging the fees to customers with disabilities would adversely affect the company’s business.” In fact, the company said that without charging the fee, it “might be to not provide on-demand services at all.” The company further argued that “nothing in the law requires it to have such vehicles.”
Daly-Rooney shot back saying the issue laid out in the lawsuit from her organization’s point of view “was even more basic than that.” She added, “There is a duty to provide reasonable modifications…One of those would be to waive a generally applicable fee when it’s an extra charge for people with disabilities.”
In the end, while Total Transit never admitted to wrongdoing, the company agreed to drop the fee. Considering the fact that the fee, which was $20 for a round trip, is a victory for people with disabilities. Daly-Rooney said:
“It really minimized the number of times people could take a taxi. Taxis can be convenient compared to paratransit (shared-ride services) and some other forms of transportation.”
She noted that there is still work to be done because many other transit and taxi services continue to charge additional fees. “We hope that this settlement may lead others to voluntarily drop their fees,” Daly-Rooney said.