WASHINGTON-- In response to a WUSA9 investigation documenting discrimination against black and disabled taxi passengers, the DC Office Of Human Rights is launching a new reporting system that could land cabbies and cab companies in court.
"We will be looking at failure to pick up a passenger because of who they are," said Gustava Velasquez, director of DC's Office of Human Rights. "The authority we have would be looking at whether this is a discriminatory behavior."
The office will not only respond to taxi discrimination based upon race or disability, but will also solicit reports of discriminatory service related to national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
WUSA9 probes have shows about 25 of taxis leaving black passengers on the street in favor of white passengers half a block away, and disabled passengers either left on the street, illegally overcharged, or taken to the wrong location about half the time.
"We saw your reports and we thank you for it," Velasquez said crediting WUSA9's undercover reports with sparking the agency to take action. "All of it. It was outrageous."
"Often times people of color, people with disabilities, and those who live in certain parts of the District are denied equal access to taxi services," the Office of Human Rights new web page says. "Denying such service solely because of an individual's race, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other protected characteristics is illegal, and should be reported."
Velasquez says his office also considers refusal to take passengers to their destination discrimination.
The agency has the power to force individual drivers and cab companies to reach an agreement with discriminated passengers which can include financial penalties and awards for the discriminated passenger.
The Velasquez drivers or companies who refuse to reach an agreement with the Office of Human Rights could find themselves in court.
Source: WUSA News 9