New York City tackles discrimination by taxi and Uber drivers

New York City has launched a new initiative to tackle the growing problem of discrimination by taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.

There have been dozens of high-profile reported incidents over the past few years of discriminatory actions by drivers against people with protected characteristics.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio this week announced the creation of a new office within the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission to tackle the issue.

The new Office of Inclusion, which was proposed by proposed by Council Member Donovan Richards, will “focus on the development and implementation of anti-discrimination training for drivers” while launching a public education campaign on the issue.

An Uber car waits for a client in Manhattan (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Customers will be encouraged to file complaints with the TLC when denied service, so that their experience may be investigated, and appropriate actions taken.

If found to have refused service, drivers would face a penalty of $500 for the first violation.

A second offence would lead to a $1000 fine and possible 30 day suspension, while a third violation within 36 months could result in the license being revoked.

Mayor de Blasio said: “Service refusal is real, unacceptable and we’re going to fight it in every way we can.

“These new steps will help ensure that anyone considering this unfair and illegal practice knows that it’s wrong, it carries severe consequences, and it has no place in this industry.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson added: “Today we take a major step forward in ending service refusal once and for all in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry.

“I congratulate my colleague Council Member Donovan Richards on this vital idea becoming a reality and I look forward to working with the TLC Office of Inclusion to ensure that there is zero tolerance for service refusal in our city.”

An Uber vehicle in Manhattan (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Council Member Donovan Richards said: “Denying someone taxi service because of the color of their skin, their gender or their destination is simply unacceptable and has gone on for far too long in New York City.

“While we work to improve conditions for drivers, the TLC Office of Inclusion will be working to ensure that all passengers receive the same level of respect and service. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson for addressing my concerns and creating this office to ensure that our taxi and for-hire-vehicle reforms promote and advance inclusion.”

TLC Chair Meera Joshi said: “There is nothing more fundamental to what we do than making sure New Yorkers are welcomed and served into our city’s yellow cabs.

“Service refusal in general, and bias-based refusal in particular, is a terrible experience for its victims — it is visceral, hurtful, and just wrong.”

In June, two gay men alleged that a New York taxi driver interrogated them about their sexuality and told them “I don’t drive gays”

The allegations surfaced in the same week that an Uber driver was suspended after he reportedly ejected a lesbian couple from his car when they shared a brief kiss.