City Desk

Office of Human Rights Launches Inquiry Into Cab Commission Over Discrimination Complaints

The city's Office of Human Rights launched a "director's inquiry" this week into the D.C. Taxicab Commission's handling of complaints that city cabs are not picking up customers based on their race or disability.

The inquiry comes in response a WUSA9 undercover investigation that found that 33 percent of cab drivers passed by black passengers trying to hail them, while none passed a white passenger. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells subsequently called on OHR to investigate WUSA's findings.

OHR is referring to its investigation as a director's inquiry because the probe wasn't prompted by a specific complaint to the office,  according to OHR's director of policy and communications, Elliot Imse. OHR has also received complaints in the past from customers accusing cab drivers of discriminatory practices.

In the letter to Commission Chairman Ron Linton, OHR requested that the commission submit a number of pieces of information and documents, including the number of complaints the commission received for "failure to haul" since January 2012 and the investigation record of the complaints.

"DCTC intends to fully and completely respond to the inquiry from OHR," commission spokesman Neville Waters wrote in an email.

In a letter to Wells, OHR said it would launch the inquiry Monday, January 6. "OHR has a long history of acting on concerns of disparate treatment brought forward by the public and specific communities seeking transportation by taxi, and has launched several initiatives aimed at reducing such discrimination," the letter reads.

The Cab Commission announced Tuesday it has been conducting undercover operations of its own and future operations will focus on drivers refusing to pick up black passengers. The investigation has so far found that out of 91 tested rides, there were eight instances of refusal to haul.

Read OHR's letters to Linton and Wells below:

Photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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  • Corky

    Discrimination by cabbies in this town is so blatant that there is barely a need for another investigation. If OHR is to investigate, it should focus not only on the dysfunctional DCTC, but also on specific cabbies and cab companies. The cab companies will try to distance themselves from the discrimination of their drivers by calling them independent contractors, but there are mechanisms in the law to pierce that phony veil and to penalize the cab companies severely for the misconduct of the persons operating their cars. Let's hope OHR goes after them loaded for bear.

  • NickZ123

    This is a good step forward in ensuring good services for everyone. But I suspect that the taxi's wants to avoid passengers that do not pay and would just run out the taxi at the end of the ride.

    In this regard, are there a systemic reporting system in place to accounts for the number of non-paying passengers and police support in catching non-paying passengers. There should be some sort of universal reporting system and insurance for non-payers in place.