New office will address refusals of service by taxis and FHVs that affect people of color and outer borough residents in New York
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced the creation of a new office within the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, the sole purpose of which is to ensure that all passengers receive the service they expect, and to which they are legally entitled. The new Office of Inclusion, originally proposed by Council Members Donovan Richards, will focus on the development and implementation of anti-discrimination training for drivers, and will expand on its public education campaign, encouraging passengers to file complaints with the TLC when denied service, so that their experience may be investigated, and appropriate actions taken.
“Service refusal is real, unacceptable and we’re going to fight it in every way we can,” said Mayor de Blasio. “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.”
“We take a major step forward in ending service refusal once and for all in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “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.”
"There is nothing more fundamental to what we do than making sure New Yorkers are welcomed and served into our city's yellow cabs," said TLC Chair Meera Joshi. "Service refusal in general, and bias-based refusal in particular, is a terrible experience for its victims -- it is visceral, hurtful, and just wrong."
The bulk of TLC’s service refusal violations are in response to passenger complaints. TLC’s prosecution unit investigates each complaint thoroughly. Drivers face significant fines if cases are substantiated, and ultimately license revocation if they continue refusing service. Service refusal violations lead to penalties of $500 for the first violation; second violation is $1000 and possible 30 day suspension; third violation within 36 months is $1000 and revocation prehearing.
The TLC recognizes the continued challenge many Black, Latino, other communities of color and outer borough residents face when hailing taxis and getting service to their destination in NYC. The TLC has provided outreach and education to drive down service refusal numbers. The proposed TLC Office of Inclusion will be tasked with:
· Encouraging service refusal complaints (based on a protected class including ethnicity or race or gender, or destination) to be submitted to the TLC;
· Prosecuting service refusal complaints provided by the public;
· Increasing and insuring taxi service in outer boroughs;
· Aggressive outreach to the TLC's regulated driver communities on NYC’s zero tolerance for service refusals, and the significant penalties they face if they make the wrong choices. Refusals include not stopping when hailed, refusing to go to location requested, and not accepting passengers;
· Outreach to community groups whose members have experienced service refusals, to stress the importance of reporting service refusals;
· Overseeing production and roll-out of a ride refusal awareness campaign, including a Public Service Announcement that will be distributed citywide to venues outside of taxis to ensure robust exposure to the public. This PSA will also be incorporated into new and existing training for drivers. The awareness campaign will also be shown on local TV, heard on local radio, and transformed into images for digital and printed outreach materials;
· Develop and provide mandated Continuing Driver Training prior to license renewal. Training includes diversity training and review of zero tolerance rules and penalties;
· Recruitment efforts focused on encouraging members of underrepresented communities to become drivers;
· Encourage extensive citywide coverage by TLC drivers in all communities and ensure that the public has data on service levels in their local community by providing metrics on service levels by geography.