Uber, Lyft Drivers Clash With Riders Over Face Masks as States Lift Mandates


Drivers for


UBER -2.51%

Technologies Inc. and

Lyft Inc.

LYFT -1.11%

who’ve confronted challenges as front-line employees through the well being disaster are going through a brand new pandemic-related check: states lifting masks mandates.

The ride-sharing firms require that riders proceed carrying masks. But drivers—who are also required to be masked—say the principles have gotten tougher to implement as state and native governments push for a widespread reopening, resulting in friction between gig employees and passengers.

Late final month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mentioned greater than 90% of Americans dwell in areas the place they might drop face coverings indoors however suggested carrying them in shared cabs. California, Massachusetts and New York lately joined the rising ranks of states to lift mask mandates indoors.

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What can Uber, Lyft do to forestall friction between drivers and riders? Join the dialog beneath.

The tensions between drivers and riders, mixed with rising gas prices, are discouraging many employees from returning to ride-share work, hampering efforts by Uber and Lyft to alleviate a yearlong labor scarcity that has kept ride prices high.

“It’s just not worth it anymore,” mentioned Anwaar Malik, a ride-share driver in New York City who added he has reduce on driving amid well being considerations, rising crime and inflation. Mr. Malik mentioned he ferried passengers earlier this month after a monthslong hiatus to search out that many have been hesitant to placed on face coverings. “It’s getting worse,” he mentioned.

Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun mentioned driver complaints about maskless passengers remained comparatively constant in February—when a number of states introduced plans to elevate masks mandates by March—in contrast with June 2020, the primary full month of the masks mandate on Uber.

He mentioned Uber’s coverage relies on the CDC tips for shared cabs. “Riders and drivers who repeatedly violate our ‘No Mask. No Ride’ policy continue to risk losing access to Uber,” he mentioned. Lyft spokeswoman Ashley Adams mentioned “drivers have our full support to decline any ride that makes them feel unsafe.”

Many Uber and Lyft drivers migrated to delivering meals and different jobs through the pandemic, spooked by well being considerations from sharing automobiles with individuals and the inconsistency in earnings as new variants emerged. The firms spent hundreds of thousands of {dollars} giving bonuses to woo drivers, which helped them mood the labor scarcity. Uber beforehand mentioned it was pulling again on the incentives, however Chief Executive

Dara Khosrowshahi

mentioned at a Morgan Stanley discuss Monday that he anticipated them to proceed.

Uber says its masks coverage relies on CDC tips for shared cabs.


David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Mr. Khosrowshahi mentioned the ache from rising gas costs; drivers pay for fuel themselves. He mentioned that each 20% improve in fuel prices could be offset by a 1% increase to rider fares. That calculus would hold driver earnings and Uber’s earnings flat, in line with Mr. Khosrowshahi. He wasn’t requested about masks mandates.

Some drivers say they’ve been suspended after insisting that passengers put on masks. The firms don’t inform drivers why they have been suspended, making it onerous to confirm the explanations.

Sulaimon Brown, an Uber driver from Charleston, S.C., mentioned he declined to ferry a maskless passenger and reported the violation to Uber so he may very well be compensated for his time. He mentioned a help consultant mentioned the corporate would alert the passenger concerning the violation. Mr. Brown mentioned that later the identical day his account was suspended. A abstract of his driver account reveals a 4.87-star ranking out of 5 from greater than 1,500 rides over the previous six years.

“In writing it looks good. They say ‘No mask. No ride.’ But when you enforce it, then they fire you because the passenger accuses you of something you didn’t do,” Mr. Brown mentioned. He mentioned sharing automobiles might be dangerous in his state, the place official information present simply over 50% of residents are absolutely vaccinated; the CDC says 65.2% of individuals nationwide are absolutely vaccinated. Exchanges with passengers typically received heated, he mentioned.

“They say: ‘Why are you the only one asking us to wear a mask? We’re not wearing it at the supermarket or school,’ so they look at you like you’re the odd one out,” he mentioned. Mr. Brown doesn’t drive for Uber anymore.

Uber’s Mr. Hasburn mentioned Mr. Brown’s account was suspended after a number of rider complaints. He declined to elaborate.

Uber and Lyft say driver accounts are suspended primarily based on the character of complaints acquired. A sexual-assualt grievance triggers an instantaneous termination whereas much less extreme complaints might add up over time, resulting in non permanent or everlasting suspensions.

Drivers say the businesses gained’t clarify why they have been suspended—or evaluate private dashcam footage provided by them—except confronted with litigation. “It’s very frustrating,” mentioned Jared Hoffa, the top of growth at Chicago-based AuthorizedRideShare LLC, a private harm agency that represents gig employees. Mr. Hoffa mentioned dozens of drivers have approached his agency over the previous 12 months, saying they have been targets of false rider complaints that they assume stemmed from disagreements over face masks.

Some maskless passengers retaliate by reporting that the motive force wasn’t carrying a masks, understanding it could have repercussions for drivers, he mentioned.

The firms say they’re trying into methods to again up claims by drivers and riders. In December, Uber mentioned it could pilot in-app audio recordings throughout a visit which might assist it examine complaints. The pilot is working in three U.S. cities within the Midwest and South.

Some drivers say they’re taking maskless passengers regardless of what they assume are security dangers as a result of they want the cash.

Miami-based Lyft driver David Solomon mentioned his account was quickly suspended a number of instances through the pandemic, most lately final month. Mr. Solomon mentioned these suspensions passed off after he requested passengers to put on face coverings.

“I would say seven out of 10 passengers don’t wear a mask here, and most of them—80% or 90%—don’t even have a mask on their wrist or neck,” he mentioned. “They don’t like being told what to do.”

Mr. Solomon stopped driving due to an harm late final 12 months and was suspended once more in February. “It was a harsh blow because you’re relying on this money to survive,” he mentioned.

Mr. Solomon mentioned he’s again to driving and is accepting maskless passengers to keep away from friction and the opportunity of dropping the work once more. Lyft’s Ms. Adams declined to touch upon his case.

Write to Preetika Rana at [email protected]

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