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8 min read

    8 min read

    Drivers and passengers all have to wear masks when riding in an Uber or Lyft – but not every passenger is happy about it. Senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins shares the story of what happened to one Uber driver accused of not wearing a mask while driving – except this driver had video and photographic evidence he was!

    Drivers have been deactivated from the Uber and Lyft platform for various reasons over the years. Some of them justified, some of them not, and some of them without a reason given at all.

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    Unfairly deactivated? Here’s how to fight an unfair deactivation from Uber or Lyft.

    Now, due to new requirements caused by the pandemic, passengers have been given more power to show vindictiveness toward a driver they don’t like. They can simply claim the driver was not wearing a mask—which is required of drivers and passengers on both Uber and Lyft—and the driver faces the possibility of deactivation… even if they were wearing one.

    Below is the story of Donny (name has been changed to keep anonymity) from Los Angeles who was deactivated for “not wearing a mask” as reported by a passenger. Donny’s situation was seemingly more fortunate than most: he had proof he was wearing the mask.

    Unfortunately, when he gave Uber evidence to show he was indeed wearing a mask, their reaction was surprising.

    Update 12/3: We reached out to Uber for comment, and they clarified that there is no ‘right’ mask, as long as it properly covers their nose and mouth. Passengers do not get free rides for marking a driver as not wearing a mask. Finally, Uber stated they only deactivate drivers for multiple reports of non-compliance, not one report. 

    Long Time Driver Wears Mask – But it’s Not the ‘Right’ One

    Uber’s mask policy went into effect in May 2020. In the announcement, Uber states, “First and foremost, everyone on our platform will be required to wear masks or face covers when using Uber. Whether you are a rider, driver or delivery person—everyone must share in the responsibility of helping stop the spread of COVID-19.”

    The requirement itself states, “Everyone riding, driving, and delivering on Uber’s platform must wear a face cover or mask. We are not requiring surgical masks or N95 respirators, which are in short supply and should be conserved for healthcare workers. When wearing a face cover or mask, make sure it covers your face from the bridge of your nose down to your chin. Face covers can be made of cloth, should cover the mouth and nose, and be secured to your face.”

    We emphasized that Uber doesn’t require surgical or medical masks to be worn by drivers, only because that’s exactly the mask Donny chose to wear. Instead of wearing a cloth face covering, he chose to wear a medical mask.

    Donny has been driving for Uber for about 5.5 years. During the pandemic, he’s been averaging around $2,000 a week. Now, all of that is gone because of claims from passengers of him not wearing a mask.

    In Donny’s case, he was reported by multiple passengers for not wearing a face mask. When he raised the concern with Uber, here was their response:

    “Upon checking on the status of your account. Our policy requires that riders, drivers, and delivery people wear non-medical face covers while completing rides or deliveries. This policy was designed with the safety of everyone that uses Uber in mind, including drivers and delivery people like you.

    We’ve received multiple reports from riders that you have been non-compliant with this policy and have sent a reminder with each report. Unfortunately, your account has been permanently deactivated at this time.”

    Donny interpreted this as “because you were wearing a medical mask, instead of a non-medical mask, you’ve been deactivated.”

    Donny has video footage showing he is wearing a mask throughout all of his rides. The mask he’s wearing is a medical mask.

    The communication from Uber specifies drivers and passengers should be wearing masks, which doesn’t jive with the communication they sent out showing what kinds of face coverings are acceptable. Masks are required, surgical or N95 masks are not – but those masks are still considered masks!

    During a chat conversation Donny had with Uber, he showed an image of himself wearing a mask and had previously let them know he could provide video evidence of him wearing his mask throughout his trips.

    Uber’s Inconsistent Mask Policy

    While medical masks aren’t something we recommend, mainly because they are disposable, tend to be expensive, and can be hard to find, there is nothing prohibiting a driver from wearing them according to Uber’s own policy. Read more about the best masks for Uber and Lyft drivers.

    Uber’s deactivation of Donny also doesn’t make sense because Uber Greenlight Hubs all over the U.S. have been giving out medical masks to drivers for months. I received some myself. So, Uber, what gives?

    These are some of the masks Uber has given out to their drivers. As Donny said, “If I cannot wear medical masks why did Uber provide them to me?”

    As of the writing of this article, Donny has not been reactivated. He tried communicating with Uber support, went to his local Greenlight Hub and has not received any kind of reprieve despite the evidence he provided showing him wearing his mask.

    Donny was also unable to get a straight answer from Uber about how many passengers sent in complaints about him. He said, “On the phone, support told me they could see 5 complaints of ‘not wearing a mask’ going back to August. When I went to the Greenlight Hub, they told me they can see ’10 complaints going back to May’.”

    This is Not an Isolated Story

    Donny’s story is not the only one out there. There also seems to be some confusion online about what the policy of Uber and Lyft actually is.

    One Reddit user posted, “Opened up my inbox to see a warning that a passenger stated I wasn’t wearing a face mask. I have a step dad with type 2 diabetes and take it very seriously. This is insane. I told the rep that I’m a diamond driver with a 4.97 (which is now 4.96) and he said there is nothing he can do about it. So basically anyone can be deactivated now for baseless claims.”

    Other posters came to his defense and offered guidance on how to combat the claim. One stated that he should have sent camera footage to Uber to show they were wearing a mask all day.

    Another stated, “Uber doesn’t look at camera footage.” This reflects Donny’s experience, where his video footage did not sway Uber’s decision to deactivate. However, it is the only real way to prove yourself to Uber. Insist they review your footage, and if they refuse, bring in legal representation to push them.

    One suggested asking to not be paired with that passenger again because of the false claim. It doesn’t get rid of the accusation, but at least allows you not to get that passenger in the future.

    Driver Fears of Retaliation

    All of this brings about a fear of retaliation. If a driver states a passenger is not wearing a face mask and gives them a low rating, the passenger then has the opportunity to claim the same, even if it’s not true.

    There is also nothing to stop a passenger from saying their driver has no face mask if the passenger simply has a beef against the driver for whatever reason. Passengers and drivers alike are encouraged to report when the opposites are not wearing face masks. If either are reported for not wearing a mask multiple times, they risk deactivation from the app.

    Some drivers fear that if a passenger decides they want to cancel a ride, to avoid a cancellation fee, they will choose “no mask” as their reasoning for canceling. This puts the driver at risk for losing their means of income for a passenger to save a couple of dollars avoiding a cancellation fee.

    How to Avoid Being Marked as ‘Not Wearing a Mask’

    There are several reasons why a passenger might report a driver is not wearing a mask, and not just out of retaliation for other reasons. The reasons listed below are all mask-related and might warrant a “no mask” claim:

    1. The driver did not have a mask on when they pulled up to the pickup location
    2. During the ride, the mask may have slipped off the driver’s nose
    3. The driver removed the mask in order to take a sip of water throughout the ride
    4. The mask is not covering their mouth and nose
    5. The driver is actually not wearing a mask at all
    6. The driver is wearing a mask to start the ride, but takes it off and says they don’t believe in wearing masks
    7. Driver had to remove mask to blow their nose—this could be seen as a health violation

    In most of these cases, wearing a properly fitting mask (take a look at our in-depth mask review guide video below) will go a long way to making sure no passenger can accuse you of not wearing a mask.

     

    Additionally, you may want to invest in a partition or, at the very least, an air purification system for your car. Not sure which one to get? Check out our write up of the PuraShield Mini air purifier.

    Have you run into this issue – wearing a mask but accused by a passenger of not wearing a mask? Are most passengers in your city wearing masks or not?

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    -Paula @ RSG

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins, a graduate of Augustana University, Sioux Falls, is a part-time rideshare driver and a full-time proofreader. She is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In her free time, Paula enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in trivia nights.