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Uber Denies Ride to Woman in Labor

So much of the story is so sensationalized. Who has a $13 cancellation fee? Oh - I guess New York did before the rate cuts. Who loses $1000 per day if they can't drive?

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Photograph by Paul Bradbury - Getty Images/Caiaimage

An Uber driver left a woman in labor stranded on the sidewalk. Her baby is okay, but the family is fuming at how the company acted.

The baby was early, but the first time parents were ready. They summoned the birthing coach, grabbed the overnight bag, and stepped out the door of their New York apartment for a three mile ride to the delivery room. The Uber arrived, but then came the hitch.

Instead of taking David Lee and his wife to the hospital, the Uber driver balked because the expectant mother retched on the sidewalk. He informed them he would lose $1,000 a day if Lee's wife became sick in the car and, what's more, told them no other driver would accept a woman in labor as a passenger.

coach explained to the driver that Lee's wife would not be sick again, and the couple pleaded with the driver, assuring him they would pay for any cleaning for his car. Please, just take us to the hospital, they said. But the driver would not budge.

Instead, he drove away - but not before charging them $13 for his lost time. Lee and his wife in labor, along with the birthing coach, were left standing on a Manhattan sidewalk.

The couple's predicament may be a cautionary tale for other expectant parents who plan to use Uber or another car service to get to the hospital. But it also raises important questions of how anti-discrimination laws should apply to a generation of companies that prefer to style themselves as tech platforms rather than transportation services.

Fortunately, in the case of Lee and his wife, the day ended happily: they summoned another Uber car, which whisked them without incident to the hospital where a healthy baby boy was born a few hours later.

The ordeal with the first Uber driver on that brisk November morning is just a receding memory for the new parents. But Lee, a 37-year-old lawyer, and his wife (who did not want to be named) remains miffed at the ride-hailing company.

"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," said Lee.

In response to his complaints, Uber eventually refunded the $13. But Lee is frustrated that the company would not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Uber or by the driver.

He also feels the company stymied his attempt to identify the driver. While the trip record in Uber's app shows a driver's first name, Lee says when he asked the company for more information in order to pursue a complaint with New York's taxi regulator, a representative refused, citing a driver privacy policy. When Lee rebutted that driver licensing is a matter of public record, the company stopped replying to his emails. (He later learned driver details can be found in the email receipt sent to users after a trip).

In response to questions from Fortune, an Uber spokesperson initially said the company does not discuss individual driver incidents, and cited a privacy policy. The company also provided the following statement:

"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."

"Babies born on New York City sidewalks"

What happened to Lee and his wife can, for the most part, be chalked up to bad luck. After all, most New York City car drivers- Uber or otherwise-would have rushed to help a woman in labor. Indeed, taxi-based births are not unheard of in the Big Apple.

But Lee's experience also raises familiar questions about whether Uber should be doing more to educate its drivers about their legal responsibilities. Those responsibilities don't just relate to safe driving, but to civil rights as well.

According to Emily Martin, the general counsel of the National Women's Law Center in Washington, DC, city and state laws in New York forbid drivers from refusing women in labor.

"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."

The issue of how public accommodation laws apply to Uber also surfaced last year after disabled passengers sued the company and its competitor, Lyft, for denying services to passengers with wheelchairs and service dogs. Meanwhile, feminist icon Gloria Steinhem recently included better treatment of the disabled by Uber as one of her ten Christmas wishes.

It appears Uber is taking some of the criticism to heart. In response to a question about whether it educates its drivers about public accommodation issues, the company pointed to its non-discrimination policy and code-of-conduct to say it is setting expectations that refusal of service based on identity will not be tolerated.

Uber added that, anytime a rider reports discrimination, the company will investigate and, in some cases, terminate its relationship with the driver.

Make sure to subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune's daily newsletter on the business of technology.

As for Lee, he agrees Uber is bound by public accommodation laws, but also questioned whether the company is committed to ensuring its drivers abide by them. He also fears that some groups will be affected more than others when Uber fall short.

"Uber should have clarified their policies on drivers and women in labor, and confirmed that the driver received appropriate disciplinary action," said Lee. "I'm fortunate enough to know my rights and have access to resources, but I feel for the person who is not as lucky."
 

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Epic article - best part:
While the trip record in Uber's app shows a driver's first name, Lee says when he asked the company for more information in order to pursue a complaint with New York's taxi regulator, a representative refused, citing a driver privacy policy
If they want to be able to complain to a regulator, they should have called a cab and paid the higher price. What did they do instead? They summoned another Uber...

Sounds like another case of people wanting steaks for the price of hot dogs.
 

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Let's not forget that should anything at all go wrong on that trip and any harm at all comes to that lady and her precious baby, the under-insured "partner" is on the hook for liabilities that will surely ruin him.

They want this poor "partner" to shoulder all kinds of personal risk for a couple of dollars. Yet they can't be bothered to call up an ambulance or a real livery service with the proper coverages. Wow.

And notice Fortune didn't bother pointing out how pervasive this very real insurance problem is.
 

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Honestly - having birthed 4 babies, I can say that the driver should have taken her.

It was only 3 miles & the likelihood that she would have delivered in the car or even been sick again was pretty darn low.

He could have at least asked how far apart her contractions were and gotten a good feel for how close to delivery she might have been.

Most women labor for hours.

Most women who have hospital births go there in the earlier stages of labor. Her being sick is actually a sign of early labor.

Most women don't have their waters rupture until delivery

And the uterus does an amazing job of protecting the fetus - the likelihood of something going wrong during transport is pretty much non-existent.

The driver was an ass.

I guess none of you guys drove your wives to the hospital to give birth? You all called ambulances because transport by car would be dangerous & messy? Yeah right
 

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H
Honestly - having birthed 4 babies, I can say that the driver should have taken her.

It was only 3 miles & the likelihood that she would have delivered in the car or even been sick again was pretty darn low.

He could have at least asked how far apart her contractions were and gotten a good feel for how close to delivery she might have been.

Most women labor for hours.

Most women who have hospital births go there in the earlier stages of labor. Her being sick is actually a sign of early labor.

Most women don't have their waters rupture until delivery

And the uterus does an amazing job of protecting the fetus - the likelihood of something going wrong during transport is pretty much non-existent.

The driver was an ass.

I guess none of you guys drove your wives to the hospital to give birth? You all called ambulances because transport by car would be dangerous & messy? Yeah right
How is the driver supposed to know any of this?

Not that it matters. This is not the driver's wife. This is a stranger in a commercial interaction that the driver reasonably assumes presents a non-accpetable risk to his personal property and his financial health.

If getting to the hospital is that important, maybe a licensed cab or an ambulance is better than some sub-minimum wage sucker with his personal vehicle. Maybe.
 

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How are they supposed to know? Good lord, have we become this ignorant of the most basic of human experiences that the norms of childbirth are some mystery?
 

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How are they supposed to know? Good lord, have we become this ignorant of the most basic of human experiences that the norms of childbirth are some mystery?
Well, apparently we're dumb enough to think we should call an uninsured stranger to come take care of our medical emergency with his personal vehicle for almost zero compensation.
 

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How are they supposed to know? Good lord, have we become this ignorant of the most basic of human experiences that the norms of childbirth are some mystery?
You may have birthed 4 children...but you have to realize that a lot of us have no clue about female child-bearing functions...nor do all of us have children.
 

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Well, apparently we're dumb enough to think we should call an uninsured stranger to come take care of our medical emergency with his personal vehicle for almost zero compensation.
Um, childbirth is rarely a medical emergency. Using an ambulance would be ridiculous.

Look, I get the rates are too low & people ought not be driving for such low rates. That's a valid thing.

Thinking it's not normal to use regular transportation to travel to the hospital when in labor is thr ridiculous part.
 

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You may have birthed 4 children...but you have to realize that a lot of us have no clue about female child-bearing functions...nor do all of us have children.
See, that's pretty weird to me.

You don't have younger siblings & never saw your mother pregnant? Or aunts? No older siblings who are already parents? No friends?

Your mother never had her friends over for coffee & conversation turned to childbirth? You've never heard tales of your own birth, your siblings, cousins?

How do you make it to adulthood & not have known someone who reproduced?

Don't they teach anything useful in sex ed at least?
 

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Um, childbirth is rarely a medical emergency. Using an ambulance would be ridiculous.

Look, I get the rates are too low & people ought not be driving for such low rates. That's a valid thing.

Thinking it's not normal to use regular transportation to travel to the hospital when in labor is thr ridiculous part.
Childbirth has for most of human history been a very dangerous event for both mother and child. Under the ideal conditions provided by a modern medical facility or with the presence of trained professionals, we have the luxury of thinking it's no big deal. A moving car is step away from these ideal conditions.

It is more than reasonable for an uninsured stranger to refuse to transport this woman. Uber drivers already shoulder tremendous risk transporting without proper insurance people who aren't puking, bleeding, and in the process of ejecting a tiny human being from inside them.
 

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See, that's pretty weird to me.

You don't have younger siblings & never saw your mother pregnant? Or aunts? No older siblings who are already parents? No friends?

Your mother never had her friends over for coffee & conversation turned to childbirth? You've never heard tales of your own birth, your siblings, cousins?

How do you make it to adulthood & not have known someone who reproduced?

Don't they teach anything useful in sex ed at least?
You are moving the goalposts here. We all know that babies come out of vaginas in a flood of blood and bodily fluids and sometimes the mother's excrement. We get that this happens after semen is deposited in the vagina about 36 weeks before.

What no one can reasonably be expected to know is how complicated a birth is going to be. What we all do know is that none of us has the insurance to cover the results of any complications that could happen in our personal vehicles that we've let out to cheap ass strangers who want to find a bargain basement way to get to the hospital.
 

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Bottom line.. if you're in labor and don't have a car.. dial 911.. Uber is not guarantee to act as paramedic... Honestly I would dial 911 and explain they why it's not a good idea call Uber under that circumstance
No listen - check this out. UberAmbulance. You get random strangers to drive you to the hospital and try to keep you alive during the ride - all for the fraction of the cost of a regular ambulance!

Interested investors are welcome to PM me.
 
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