The B.C. legislature is currently planning to draft legislation to allow ride-hailing apps to operate in the province. University of British Columbia law professor Erez Aloni says that in doing so, the government must take steps to ensure legal protection against discrimination for ride-hailing passengers as well as drivers.
An all-party committee on the topic of ride-hailing in B.C. has had a series of recent meetings, receiving input from stakeholders including taxi associations, transit authorities, and ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The committee is preparing a report of recommendations for the upcoming legislation. This report is expected to be finished by mid-February, shortly after the B.C. legislature’s next sitting begins.
Aloni said he believes section 8 of the B.C. Human Rights Code applies to passengers using ride-hailing apps. Section 8 ensures protection from “discrimination against a person in the accommodation of a service or a facility that is customarily available to the public.” Aloni said that although drivers using ride-hailing apps have some freedom to decide who to drive and when they work, this does not give them “a free pass to discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.”
Contrarily, according to Metro News, ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft “have consistently argued that anti-discrimination laws do not apply to them.” Aloni said the companies claim this is because “these platforms do not provide services in the traditional sense, but they’re only connecting services with consumers.”
Aloni noted that in addition to the Human Rights Code, taxi drivers are subject to regulations through B.C.’s Passenger Transport Regulation, which protects against discrimination by obligating drivers of passenger-directed vehicles to pick up a passenger unless they have “reasonable grounds” not to do so. Aloni says that these rules currently do not apply to ride-hailing apps and the law needs to be amended to remedy this by stating that ride-hailing drivers are subject to the same regulations.
A study conducted in Seattle and Boston showed that men with “African American sounding” names had their Uber trips cancelled more often than men with “white sounding” names and African American Uber and Lyft passengers had longer wait times compared to others.
Discrimination against drivers is also a concern. Ride-hailing drivers could receive negative reviews due to discrimination by passengers, and if their ratings fall below a certain point they can be banned from using apps such as Uber. Aloni said that drivers cannot dispute a termination because technically they are not employees.
The B.C. legislature has not yet drafted the ride-hailing legislation, so whether it will include protection against discrimination remains to be seen.