Five taxicab drivers filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court against Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton Wednesday, claiming the commission’s cab modernization requirements are discriminatory and a violation of the drivers’ constitutional rights.
The suit also names the D.C. Cab Commission, Mayor Vince Gray,and the D.C. Council.
The cab drivers’ arguments are kind of a grab bag of gripes, with the group alleging the government has violated everything from the American With Disabilities Act to the Fourth Amendment to the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
For one, the drivers argue, the on- and off-duty signals on the newly required dome lights can only be activated from a switch on the roof, which is a violation of the American With Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination Act because it would make it potentially difficult for a disabled or elderly driver, specifically anyone over 40, to toggle it on or off. (While drivers can purchase a more expensive dome light that does have an on/off switch inside the cab, the suit says this places a “cost prohibitive imposition” on drivers with disabilities.)
All of the plaintiffs are over 40.
Commission spokesman Neville Waters tells City Desk via email that the dome lights are designed this way to “prevent a driver from being able to switch modes while driving to avoid picking up a passenger in order to combat refusal to haul violations.”
The drivers also allege that a new GPS tracking system in each cab, built into the now-required credit card payment systems, is a violation of the drivers’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy. According to the suit, all the information after a credit card transaction goes to the cab commission.
And the suit takes issue with a new fee that requires cabs to pay the commission 25 cents for each ride they log.
The suit says this a “draconian measure” that violates the Equal Protection Clause since only taxi drivers are subject to such a fine.
This is just the latest backlash over the new regulations, which the commission has been trying for months to get cabs to comply with. Some cab drivers have been granted three extensions to meet the credit card machine installation deadline.
The D.C. Cab Commission said it would not be commenting on the suit. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Billy Ponds,did not comment on the case, saying it would be inappropriate to do so before the scheduled Oct. 18 hearing in federal court. (If the federal courts are still open, that is.)
Read the complaint here:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery