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Agency Collaboration Targets Taxicab Discrimination

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Agency Collaboration Targets Taxicab Discrimination

New complaint process makes reporting discrimination easier; Higher penalties possible for drivers who discriminate

Contact:    
Stephanie Franklin, Policy and Communications Officer (OHR) – (202) 727-1145; stephanie.franklin@dc.gov
Neville Waters, Public Information Officer (DCTC) – (202) 645-6020; neville.waters2@dc.gov

 

(Washington, D.C.) Complaints of discrimination against District taxicabs are easier to report because of a new complaint form and process launched Tuesday by the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) and the DC Taxicab Commission (DCTC). The complaint form – now available on both agency websites – simplifies the information required for reporting possible discrimination and simultaneously files the complaints with both agencies. The new process makes filing complaints easier and addresses potential confusion about where to file, while placing drivers who discriminate at greater risk for punitive measures from both agencies.

“Hailing a taxicab is often a challenge for people of color and people with disabilities,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “We have many excellent taxicab drivers in the District, however those who discriminate against passengers because of their race or disability must know we will not tolerate it. Our new complaint process makes it easier to file a complaint when discrimination occurs, and ensures both the Office of Human Rights and the Taxicab Commission can investigate the complaint when it’s received.”  

The collaboration between the two agencies began after an OHR Director’s Inquiry revealed only a small portion of complaints filed with DCTC included allegations of discrimination. The low number was in stark contrast to media reports and anecdotal evidence showing people of color and people with disabilities are often ignored by available taxis or treated unfairly after entering a taxi.  OHR records also indicate that historically, few complaints of taxicab discrimination are filed with the agency. DCTC and OHR decided to streamline the complaint filing process and expect that drivers facing potential fines from both agencies will be further deterred from such behavior.

“While the Taxicab Commission has vigorously enforced failure to haul regulations requiring taxicabs pick-up passengers with only two legal exceptions, we believe extra attention should be given to those incidents where discrimination may have occurred,” said DCTC Chairman Ron M. Linton. “Our hope is the increased threat of penalties for discriminatory failure to haul incidents will encourage drivers to treat all potential passengers equally.”

Previously, a failure to haul complaint filed with DCTC against a driver carried the same penalties regardless of whether discrimination was alleged. The new complaint process will ensure failure to haul cases alleging discrimination are also filed at OHR. If OHR finds probable cause that discrimination occurred, drivers or taxi companies could face additional penalties that are awarded to the complainant.

OHR and DCTC will continue to collaborate in a larger effort to reduce discrimination by taxicabs in the District. In the coming months, a driver awareness campaign focused on local non-discrimination laws will precede a resident awareness campaign aimed at educating residents about how to report discrimination. The new complaint form and additional information about taxicab discrimination can be found at ohr.dc.gov/taxis.  The complaint form can also be found on the DCTC website at dctaxi.dc.gov/service/complaints.

Complaints of discrimination against vehicle-for-hire services outside of the traditional taxicab system can be filed with OHR using the public accommodations complaint form at ohr.dc.gov/complaints.

 

About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights
The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.

About the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission
The mission of the DC Taxicab Commission is to provide the citizens of the District of Columbia and its visitors a safe, comfortable, efficient and affordable taxicab experience in well-equipped vehicles operated by highly qualified individuals who have knowledge of the District's streets, boundaries, history and tourist destinations, as well as the basic tenets of high quality customer service. The Commission strives to provide taxicab owners and operators with a system of rules and regulations that are fair and transparent and that allow for technological advancements to be introduced to the industry and for properly qualified individuals to participate in the industry. At the same time, the Commission has the statutory responsibility to preserve the economic viability of the District's public vehicle for hire industry.