A Muslim taxi cab driver in New York City was ordered to pay $14,000 in damages to a lesbian couple because he told them to stop kissing in the backseat of his taxi cab, a comment which was ruled to be a violation of the city’s Human Rights Law.
In a decision handed down July 7, the NYC Commission on Human Rights ordered Mohammed Dahbi to pay Christina Spitzer and Kassie Thorton $7,000 each in compensation for “emotional damages” stemming from the incident, which took place all the way back in October 2011. Dahbi will also have to work for 164 hours with the commission’s Community Relations Bureau, whose mission is “encouraging understanding and respect among New York City’s many communities.”
Both parties claimed to be on the receiving end of profane insults: Dahbi claimed that the women at one point called him a “fucking Arab terrorist” and a “radical Muslim asshole,” while Spitzer and Thorton accused him of calling them “cunts, whores [and] bitches.” The commission noted that Dahbi is indeed a Muslim.
The cab driver and the lesbian couple each have their own version of what went down in Dahbi’s taxi cab.
According to Thorton and Spitzer’s testimony, they engaged in no more than a “peck” on the lips in the backseat of Dahbi’s taxi — a claim challenged by the cab driver.
Spitzer claimed that, after the two women kissed, Dahbi “immediately pulled over, stopped the cab, and told [the women] to ‘Keep that for bedroom or get out of the cab.'”
The commission notes that Thorton, the other woman, “similarly testified that [Dahbi] pulled over and said ‘if you continue doing that, you have to get out or stop it,” and ‘save that behavior for your bedroom.'”
“Complainants testified that at that point they both felt ‘unsafe’ and decided they did not have a choice and needed to exit the taxi,” the report noted.
The women then grabbed their luggage from the taxi and told Dahbi they weren’t going to pay the cab fare, at which point — according to the two women — “Dahbi yelled epithets at [them] as he drove away, including ‘cunts, whores, bitches.'”
Dahbi’s testimony, meanwhile, said that the women’s physical contact went well beyond a mere “peck” on the lips. The cab driver claimed that the women were touching each other “all over” and blocking his view through the rearview mirror, in addition to distracting him. He claimed he simply told the women to hold off “till you go home” and that he only pulled over because the women asked him to do so.
Ultimately, the commission ruled that it didn’t matter why (or even that) Dahbi pulled over because although the two parties “dispute who initiated the stop, [Dahbi] admits that he told [the women] something to the effect of, ‘stop that behavior till you go home,’ when he saw them kissing.”
“That statement constitutes a ‘declaration…that the patronage of Complainants is ‘unwelcome, objectionable or not acceptable, desired or solicited,'” the committee said, quoting the administrative code for the city’s Human Rights Law.
As such, the commission ruled that it “need not determine who initiated the stop, as [Dahbi’s] comment, on its own, is enough to establish a violation of the NYCHRL.”
Dahbi testified that he had previously asked heterosexual couples to refrain from such behavior, but the commission ruled that his argument was “both implausible and not credible.”
The commission found “emotional distress damages in the amount of $7,000 appropriate for each Complainant.” Under the law, the two women will have the option of waiving the damages in favor of a mutually agreed upon “alternative resolution” for 30 days after the ruling. Barring such an agreement, once the 30 days are up, Dahbi will have one month to shell out the $14,000. He also will have to work 164 hours with the commission’s Community Relations Bureau over the next year.
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