After discriminating against a lesbian couple in New York, a taxi driver was ruled by a city administrative judge to pay the couple $10,000. He must also attend anti-discrimination training and pay a $5,000 civil penalty to the city.
Mohammed Dahbi was accused of discriminating against passengers Christy Spitzer and Kassie Thorton by ordering them to “keep that [behavior] for the bedroom of get out of the cab.” He also called them “b—-s,” “c—s,” and “whores” when they got out without paying.
“We felt that what happened to us was wrong and he needed to take responsibility for his actions,” Spitzer, a TV executive, said of the incident that happened in September 2011.
According to Dahbi, he couldn’t keep his eyes on the road because the couple were kissing “heavily” and “touching all over each other.” He told the judge he feared their “distracting” behavior would cause him to have an accident.
Spitzer said it was a “peck on the lips” as she had just had a lot of dental work done.
“That’s why I’m so aware of what my behavior was in the taxi,” she said.
The two felt uncomfortable and got out, refusing to pay.
Dahbi, a married man with four children, said he did not discriminate because of their sexual orientation.
“Mr. Dahbi has a standard of decent that he asks all riders in his cab to follow,” his lawyer Ali Najmi said. “He has asked straight couples to stop engaging in similar behavior. It can be very distracting for a driver if people are getting hot and heavy in the taxi.”
The judge disagreed.
“The more likely reason for [Dahbi] stopping the taxicab and directing Ms. Spitzer and Ms. Thorton to stop kissing was, not that he objected to all kissing, but that he was uncomfortable with two women sharing a romantic kiss,” Judge John Spooner said.
The couple moved to Los Angeles a year and a half ago but flew back for the trial.
“It’s a weight that we’ve carried the entire time,” Spitzer said. “We know that people are discriminated against all the time. We just felt we had to let the driver understand that it’s wrong. So he could learn, and he doesn’t do it again.”
Najmi said they plan to appeal the decision.
“My client never once mentioned anything about their sexuality and never threw them out of the taxi,” he said. “In fact, the complaint doesn’t even allege that he used any derogatory language about their sexuality and the two women testified that they are the ones who decided to exit the taxi. He wanted to take them to their final destination.”