“Hailing a taxicab is often a challenge for people of color and people with disabilities -New complaint process makes reporting discrimination easier”


From a press release:

“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.”

48 Comment

  • Too little too late.

    • +1

      After being stranded in the rain in Arlington, VA as multiple cabs passed me while I was wearing a suit on the 4th of July in 2004 I have no more tolerance for cabs. It’s really disgraceful that people should have to complain in 2014 rather than companies taking action to improve their public outreach. DC has a dark history of inequality with Taxi Cab service, I’m not interested in experimenting with my safety and feeling like a second class citizen in 2014 at all. It’s a disgrace.

  • can u say: “waaaaaaaaay the hellllllll overdue”?!

    Probably part of the reason Uber did so well so quickly, because they actually show up and cannot tell your race from your phone#. I am cautiously optimistic this will lead to a lawsuit or 10, which will either put discriminatory cab drivers out of biz or make them think twice before speeding by peeps as if they don’t notice their existence.

    • justinbc

      Uber drivers track, rate, and keep notes on passengers, all of which are available for other drivers to see. You can absolutely be denied service by a particular Uber driver, I know several folks who this has happened to.

      • always dropping knowledge… -_-

      • Sure, but I’m guessing the notes aren’t about a passenger’s race, just if they were a good passenger.

        • I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that if the passenger name is LaShawna or something similar the passenger race can be assumed by the driver and act accordingly.

          • Do the drivers see the passenger’s name before accepting the trip? I assumed it was only after they said yes. If LaShawna noticed that she was having drivers cancel on her pretty often, she should probably file a complaint.

      • “You can absolutely be denied service by a particular Uber driver, I know several folks who this has happened to.”

        Explain please. How in the world would the user ever know a driver didn’t take fare?

        • justinbc

          Step 1: Uber accepts your request and dispatches a driver. Step 2: Moments later driver cancels fare before arriving at destination and Uber alerts you that the ride has been canceled.
          It’s really not complicated, although I can see how if you’ve never seen it happen you might not know the specifics.

          • I’ve had a driver cancel. I always just assumed it was because they got flagged on the way and didn’t feel like driving all the way to me, during which they wouldn’t be paid. I also once had a driver cancel when they were right in front of me, literally, they were stopped at the light just before the corner at which I was standing. They stopped to pick someone up in front of the Capitol, probably thinking it was a Member. Saw them pick them up and 2 seconds later, my ride was cancelled. I wrote Uber a fairly angry email and got a $10 credit in return.

            That said, I don’t think Uber drivers know who they’re picking up prior to accepting the fare, and if drivers cancelled very often, you’d definitely have grounds to complain. i’ve found their customer service to be fairly responsive.

          • skj84

            I believe Uber also has an option where you can post your picture to your account. I have never done so for that very reason. I’m a black woman and I don’t want to get cancelled on. My name is pretty neutral so I’ve never had an issue with drivers assuming race, and I rate drivers pretty high once I’m done with my ride. I have heard drivers can reject riders based on the users bad ratings.

  • Good timing from a PR perspective. No one takes cabs anymore so the number of complaints will be low!

    • Plenty of people still take cabs. Regular DC taxicabs. Ever seen the lines at Union Station waiting for cabs? Or stand on any downtown street corner during the day, or around U St, H St, etc in the evenings and witness many people hailing cabs.
      I’ve been living in DC for over 20 years, I take cabs a few times a week. I haven’t had any problems so there is really no reason to switch to another service.

      • It was a joke. But the tourists who don’t know any better probably wouldn’t know about the complaint filing system anyway.

        • Having waited countless times in these lines at Union Station, I’d say the majority of folks are residents returning home or people here on business.

      • You haven’t had any problems? In TWENTY years? Seriously??? I’ve lived here for 6 and can’t remember how many times cabs have asked me where I’m going before unlocking the doors and refused to take me to Capitol Hill (and real Capitol Hill, like, 2 blocks from the Senate buildings). I even had one tell me to get out of the cab, because he thought I was with a group and wanted the extra fares (this is before the switch to the new fare system). There’s also the cabbies who don’t know their way around, refuse to turn on the air conditioning, or have dirty, smelly cars. You haven’t encountered any of these things? Even the taxis on Uber are of much better quality with much better drivers than the average cab.

        • I am dead serious. I have had zero problems with hailing DC cabs and having them take me where I want to go. I’ve had many great conversations with drivers from all over, including one who used to live in my neighborhood and we talked about what it was like “back in the day.” The day being the 90’s on.
          I know many others have had problems ranging from minor annoyances to serious issues.
          My sample size is one, just here to say I will continue to do what works for me and that’s taking DC cabs.

          • I am going to assume you have blond hair and blue eyes. I have had the locked door, where are you going treatment so many times, I would grind my teeth every time I had to get a taxi. I just expected to be treated like crap. One time the taxi driver made me pay before I got to my destination. Welcome to my world! Thank God for Uber.

          • “I am going to assume you have blond hair and blue eyes”
            And I’m going to assume he’s a man. Otherwise he surely would have been sexually assaulted by a cab driver now. Pre-Uber I was averaging one assault every 2-3 years. This person would have had several, statistically speaking, if he were a woman.

          • I’m a female – my eyes are not blue and my hair is not blonde. And I don’t believe that most females are assaulted on a regular basis when riding in cabs.

        • justinbc

          I’ve lived here for 7 years and never had a single issue either. I generally walk outside the bar and try to hail a cab, and if there’s not one there I’ll setup an Uber pickup. I’m relatively indifferent to which one I take.

  • I like how they act like discrimination is the worst problem with DC cab drivers.

    • I”m curious – how often do you feel that you’ve personally encountered discrimination? If your answer is either “never” or “I dunno” — then you might not be in the best position to assess what the “worst” problem with DC cab drivers is.

      • I had a cab driver drive to an empty parking lot, grab my arm, and stick his hand up my skirt before I was able to get away. I’m sure there are people who’ve had worse experiences with cab drivers, but it would have been better if that particular one had refused to pick me up.

        • That sounds awful — and I’m truly sorry, and angry, that that happened to you. Sadly, there are people who’ve had even worse experiences with cab drivers, as well as people who have had worse experiences because they/we couldn’t get cabs when we needed them.

  • WAAAY too little to late — what (another) joke lame PR attempt to try to dig the taxi commission out of the bottomless abyss their own negligence created.

    This is a decent gesture, but is likely just another process that looks good on paper but will not be enforced.

    I filed a complaint about 18 months ago with the commission regarding being over charged and have heard absolutely nothing, despite numerous attempts to get an answer / update. The whole taxi system need top to bottom reform – DC Gov should clean house completely and start over. That’s the only way to regain any consumer confidence, imo.

  • justinbc

    I’m curious how someone would actually prove that they have been discriminated against. Even in the case where you had 5 minorities line up on successive blocks, each with video cameras, filming the same empty cab go past them all without stopping I would just imagine the driver could say “I really had to go somewhere to poop and forgot to turn off my sign” and somehow get out of it. Intent seems incredibly difficult to prove in this arena, even if we all know / assume it’s happening.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcwThsm2LWI

      it’s not really a secret, or some sort of paranoia. I’ve had to “hang back” dozens of times and have friends/co-workers catch cabs for me. Uber solved that humiliation.

      • justinbc

        As I said specifically, I absolutely believe it happens, because I know plenty of friends who routinely report it happening to them. It’s not a matter of whether it happens that I’m talking about, it’s about how you specifically prove intent that you were discriminated against.

    • It’s literally impossible to prove unless you have the driver state on camera why they didn’t pick up a specific person. Anything other than that is just speculative confirmation bias.

  • What about discrimination based on your intended destination? Back in my early twenties, the only cabbies that ever took me home to Hillcrest after a night out were African Americans, and that’s because they were going back home at the end of their shift. All the foreign cab drivers would stop for me, ask where I was going, then refuse to take me. I even had one who let me in, start driving, then refuse to continue until I got out after I told him to where I was going.

    • YESSSS!!! I could never get a cab when I lived in Brookland. They would repeatedly drive off on me. I tried the whole getting in then telling them but half the time their doors were locked. I’m so happy Uber is putting these A-holes where they belong. They’ve had no accountability for years and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

      • Even as recently as 3 years ago I had trouble getting cars to come to Capitol Hill or Navy Yard.

        • Me too. And I live 4 blocks from Union Station, six to Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s not as if I was going somewhere where it would be difficult for them to get another fare. Can’t imagine how bad it would be for someone who lives in a quieter area, let alone a more dangerous one.

          • Me three. I live eight blocks east of Union Station. Pre-Uber, I once waited 45 minutes for a cab – in the morning! If I hadn’t been carrying a load of materials for a meeting, I would have given up. And that nearly made me late for the conference.

            True story: I had to go to the emergency room recently for stitches from a fall and when the cab company was dragging its feet about getting a taxi for me to return home, I said, “Fine. I’ll call Uber.” Cab was there in 3 minutes.

        • After getting refused for trips to Capitol Hill to many times; I had to resort to telling cab drivers I was going to Dupont or Georgetown and then a block or two after the trip started; pretending to get a text message about a booty call or a late night party in Capitol Hill. Cab drivers rarely bought it but it got me in the cab and home.

    • skj84

      Yeah, that was one of my major issues. I live in Maryland and drivers hate going there. I know they can’t pick up fares in MD, but I live maybe a mile over the DC MD state line. It’s not that bad. I’ve mentioned before the blowouts I’ve had with cabdrivers on trying to get home. It was especially frustrating when it was late at night and Metro had stopped running. I remember an incident in Adams Morgan at 3:00am where literally no cab would pick me up. I had a driver laugh in my face when I told him it was illegal to refuse my fare. I think I ended up chasing down a Barwood cab and begging him to take me home. Thankfully I was with friends, but if I had been alone the whole experience would’ve been even more frightening.

  • How cute.

  • Of course they had few actual complaints about taxis refusing to stop for passengers of color — if the cab won’t even stop for you, you don’t get much of a chance to gather their information!

  • It’s late in the day, I know, but does anyone know what the “two legal exceptions” are?

    ‘While the Taxicab Commission has vigorously enforced failure to haul regulations requiring taxicabs pick-up passengers with only two legal exceptions, ‘

    • I heard on WAMU this morning that the two exceptions are 1) the person is inebriated beyond self control, and 2) physically menacing. (Which for some people can mean any black male over age 10)

  • I know people are mentioning Uber, which is fine, but I love Hailo. Similar to Uber but Hailo only has taxis, not regular cars, and the price is only $1.50 on top of the regular fare.

    • UberX is roughly 40% cheaper than a normal cab…

      • Yeah, but UberX is not a cab, it’s just some guy in a car who doesn’t know how to get to your destination. There’s a tradeoff.

        • Stranger driver in a cab (you likely don’t take note of the license number) and stranger driver in uberx.. You know their name and license number and it’s already saved on your phone.. Uber knows where you are based on tracking and if anything happens at least am investigation can start there.. You get driven to an empty parking lot in a cab, it would be harder to track you

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