Matt Adler, a social media and content consultant, was looking forward to a Shabbat lunch and some polite conversation with his Lyft driver last Saturday. But he was left stranded instead.
After hailing a ride from his preferred car-sharing app, the 30-year-old Bethesda, Maryland resident began to fear for his safety when his Lyft driver began commenting on his religious identity.
“He told me I should not be riding in a car on Saturday because it makes me a bad Jew,” Adler said. The comments continued after he said the driver noticed a rainbow flag stitched to his yarmulke. “Good Jews don’t have sex on Shabbat,” the driver said, and added “the Bible forbids gay sex” along with a slew of homophobic slurs.
“I feel scared to take a Lyft right now. I’ve been stressed out, not sleeping. I’ve been afraid to talk to other drivers.”
Adler said he asked the driver to stop talking, but the insults lasted for about eight minutes until the driver pulled over sharply and kicked him out — about a half-mile from his destination.
Too shaken to order another Lyft, Adler walked the rest of the way to his lunch and reported his experience to the company’s Critical Response Line. But things got worse when Lyft told him it deactivated his account because the driver complained.
Lyft told ThinkProgress that Adler’s account was never suspended. But an email Adler received from a Lyft customer service representative said that company policy dictates all feedback from drivers and passengers are considered for reported allegations, which includes a temporary deactivation of the user’s account “as a safety precaution.”
When questioned about the incident, Lyft spokesperson Alexandra La Manna provided the following statement:
Lyft doesn’t tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community. The driver’s behavior was unacceptable and a clear violation of our anti-discrimination policy. As soon as the passenger reported this incident to us, we permanently removed the driver’s access to Lyft.
Long phone calls, multiple social media posts, and dozens of emails later, things still aren’t resolved. Adler said he has become disheartened by Lyft’s poor communication and seeming lack of interest in making sure situations like this don’t happen again.
“I was already hurt by this guy’s bigotry and they forced me [out of the app],” Adler said. “The reporting systems are failing the passengers they are supposed to protect…I was victimized and here I am having to pressure the company to take care of their customers.”
Adler isn’t alone in his experience. Other ride-sharing app drivers have also been accused of anti-LGBT behavior. In March, a Lyft driver posted a Facebook message telling “hetero males” to look out for his passenger, trans activist Monica Jones, divulging her name and location, which potentially put her in danger. A gay couple in San Francisco reported their Uber driver kicked them out in June after they shared a kiss.
Adler is considering legal action, but also hopes his story might help ride-sharing services employ better practices to prevent and correct discrimination from drivers.
“Cabs have their own issues, even discrimination,” he said. “But they require more training and they’re employees, which makes the company more liable and protects customers better.”
“I feel scared to take a Lyft right now. I’ve been stressed out, not sleeping. I’ve been afraid to talk to other drivers,” Adler continued. “I feel like [Lyft] hasn’t lived up to their own standards.”