Uber Won’t Allow Drivers To Discriminate Against Gay Passengers Even If A State Law Allows It

Even as lawmakers in Oklahoma sign off on a ridesharing service bill that removes protections for gay and transgender passengers, Uber has made it clear that changes to state laws will not alter its anti-discrimination policy.

A bill outlining how Oklahoma regulates ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft [PDF] passed the state’s Senate on Wednesday, after removing language from a House-passed bill [PDF] that had outlawed discrimination in the industry against passengers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

From Section 14 of the original House bill “Oklahoma Transportation Network Company Services Act” (bolding ours) dated April 1:

“TNCs shall adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief, religious affiliation, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity with respect to passengers and potential passengers and notify TNC drivers of such policy.”

In the same section of the amended bill, written by Sen. Jason Smalley that passed the state Senate on April 15, those bolded words are missing:

“TNCs shall adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief, religious affiliation, sex, disability, or age with respect to passengers and potential passengers and notify TNC drivers of such policy.”

According to the Associated Press, Sen. Smalley said he removed those terms because he thinks private businesses should be allowed to establish their own policies regarding discrimination.

“I believe if a private business owner wants to serve or not serve an individual, they have that purview right now,” he said.

Sen. John Sparks tried and failed before the Senate bill passed to include an amendment [PDF] that would require drivers to tell passengers they’re of the discriminating sort, and explain exactly who they’re not going to drive:

“Any person not wanting to comply with the non-discrimination provisions set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation or gender identity shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including exteriors of vehicles, mobile phone applications and website. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which individuals the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Why should you be able to discriminate?” Sparks said. “We’re talking about a level of civil conduct in the marketplace. Society has figured out that when you enter the marketplace, you should have an expectation of being treated fairly.”

Although the Senate bill opens the door to such discrimination, both Uber and Lyft have policies in place that expressly prohibit drivers from doing so.

“Uber’s policy is to serve every neighborhood, every driver and every person who needs a ride,” an Uber company spokeswoman told the AP, saying the company will continue to enforce its current terms of service, “which make clear that discrimination in any form is not tolerated and will result in removal from the platform,” she said.

Lyft’s terms of service clearly state the company’s policy against discrimination as well:

“Such Driver will not discriminate or harass anyone on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, age or sexual orientation.”

A Lyft spokesperson also issued a statement to Consumerist reiterating that point, saying:

“Lyft’s vision is to fill every empty seat on our roads and empower every driver. We can only do that if the Lyft experience is inclusive and diverse – creating a community where all drivers and passengers feel welcome and comfortable. As stated in our terms of service, discrimination of any type is not allowed on the Lyft platform.”