Thursday, December 24, 2015

NYC Taxi Appeals Unit Says Religious Belief of Driver Does Not Justify Gender Discrimiination

Triggered by a New York Post article, a number of media outlets last week reported on a Sept. 3, 2015 decision of the New York City OATH Taxi and Limousine Tribunal Appeals Unit.  In Taxi & Limousine Commission v. Tamsir Drammeh , the Appeals Unit upheld a hearing officer's decision that a Muslim cab driver violated a Commission rule prohibiting any action that is "against the best interest of the public" when he refused to transport a female passenger in the front seat of his cab for religious reasons. When a family of four hailed the cab, the driver told them that all four could sit in back, or the husband could sit in front, but the wife could not. The Hearing Examiner concluded: "That his religion did not allow him to sit next to a woman is not an acceptable defense in an occupation that is operated to serve the public." Affirming that decision, the Appeals Unit stated:
There is strong public policy which prohibits a TLC licensee from engaging in “invidious discrimination while serving the public” .... In addition, it is well established that a taxicab driver is required to possess sufficient self-restraint to deal in a mature fashion with the everyday conflicts inherent in his job.... This includes a situation where the driver’s religious beliefs may conflict with his obligations and duties as a taxi driver to transport members of the public.
Here, the respondent’s determination that it would be proper for the passenger’s husband to sit in the front seat, but not proper for the passenger to do so solely because of her gender, evidenced a discriminatory attitude and constituted an action against the best interests of the public.
The cabbie was fined $350 and suspended for one day.