As independent contractors, Uber drivers enjoy greater flexibility than standard taxi employees. However, does this mean Uber drivers have the right to outright refuse rides?
The short answer is “yes,” but there are a few caveats. For instance, drivers cannot refuse service because a passenger has a service animal or other ADA-related requirements. Uber’s Code of Conduct also forbids drivers from discriminating against anyone due to race, sexual orientation, gender, or religion.
However, Uber recognizes that some drivers might not want to take on an extra-long trip during their shift. If someone requests a ride that’s longer than 45 minutes, drivers could refuse service without affecting their rating.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uber told drivers it was OK to refuse or end any rides if they felt “uncomfortable…for safety reasons.” The company only asked its drivers to keep its Community Guidelines in mind before ending any service.
Beyond these basic considerations, it’s up to the Uber driver’s discretion to refuse service. Although it’s technically “legal” for drivers to force passengers out of their vehicle, it’s not a decision that drivers make lightly.
Indeed, many cases when a driver refuses service fall into a “grey area.” For instance, Uber drivers could refuse service if they feel legitimately threatened, but this could be tricky to verify without video evidence. Drivers might also have to prove they refused service because passengers were violating a safety law (e.g., not wearing a seatbelt).
Bottom line: Uber drivers can refuse to pick up rides, but there has to be a legitimate reason. Anyone who feels a driver unfairly denied them service should get in touch with Uber’s customer service department.