The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations recently ordered PHL Taxi Co. to pay $500 to Mark M. Seaman, who complained of being ejected from a taxi in 2009 after displaying affection for another man.
Seaman, 34, was notified of the favorable ruling this week. His antibias complaint had been pending with PCHR since January 2010.
In December 2009, Seaman allegedly was ejected from a taxi cab at Philadelphia International Airport, after placing his arm around his then-boyfriend and kissing him on the head.
“The driver told us we ‘couldn’t do that’ in his cab and kicked us out for being gay — speeding away with the door still open,” Seaman wrote on his Facebook page.
In July 2010, the driver, Abdolghader Tasharoki, was fined $100 by Philadelphia Parking Authority for non-provision of services without a valid reason.
Seaman also wanted PHL Taxi Co. held accountable. But PHL Taxi argued that it merely served as a dispatch service for Tasharoki and shouldn’t be held liable for his actions.
In its Nov. 17 final decision, PCHR rejected PHL Taxi’s argument, noting the taxi was “emblazoned” with PHL Taxi’s logo.
PCHR ordered PHL Taxi to pay a $500 penalty to Seaman and to “instruct its affiliated drivers to cease and desist from the unlawful practice of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Additionally, PHL Taxi must educate its employees and affiliated drivers about the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance by displaying a poster provided by PCHR.
Moreover, PHL Taxi must pay Seaman’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Richard M. Meltzer, an attorney for PHL Taxi, told PGN he’ll speak to the cab company about whether it wants to appeal.
“I have not reviewed the decision with the client,” he added.
Ronda B. Goldfein, an attorney for Seaman, expressed satisfaction with PCHR’s final decision and order.
“We are delighted with the outcome and we are delighted about the message it sends,” Goldfein told PGN. “Visitors should know that if they come to Philadelphia and get a cab at the airport, they’re protected from LGBT discrimination.”
Goldfein also serves as executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
“The law project worked on this because we are concerned about all issues that affect the LGBT community,” she said.
Seaman also expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
“We need this kind of [antibias] protection — and the institutions to enforce it — in every jurisdiction in the United States,” Seaman posted on Facebook. “I was lucky that it happened in Philadelphia, where I could avail myself of the Human Relations Commission. And I would encourage anyone who suffers discrimination of any form to do the same. And then be patient.”
Additionally, Seaman expressed “enormous thanks” to Goldfein and her legal team at AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
Rue Landau, PCHR’s executive director, issued this statement: “The Fair Practices Ordinance mandates all LGBTQ residents and visitors be protected from discrimination in places of public accommodations, including taxi services, in Philadelphia. Our decision makes it clear that taxi-dispatch companies operating in Philadelphia are responsible for the discriminatory conduct of their drivers. Companies like PHL Taxi cannot avoid liability under the Fair Practices Ordinance by creating complicated legal arrangements and contracts with their drivers. The companies have the duty to educate their drivers on Philadelphia’s antidiscrimination law.
“While this case included multiple factors that contributed to the delay of a final decision, we are pleased that the final outcome clarifies the obligations of taxi dispatch companies operating in Philadelphia. Anyone who faces discrimination in Philadelphia should contact the PCHR at 215-686-4670.”