The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) proposed regulations in early 2016 that would address sexual harassment by drivers, including taxi drivers and drivers for ride-sharing companies like Uber. The issue of alleged sexual harassment by drivers, as well as multiple incidents of alleged sexual assault, has drawn attention to the safeguards, or the lack thereof, in place for passengers. Several areas of law intersect here. First, there is the duty of a service provider, such as a taxi company, to provide reasonable protections for its customers, in this case the passengers. Then, there is the multifaceted question of whether drivers for companies like Uber are employees or independent contractors, and the extent to which employment laws protect them. New York City might not play a role in resolving these questions very soon, however, since the TLC withdrew the proposed sexual harassment regulations shortly before a scheduled vote in April.
The TLC’s proposed regulations are similar in several ways to city, state, and federal laws regarding sexual harassment. An employee can assert a claim for sexual harassment based on specific actions or demands by a supervisor, manager, or other person in a position to affect the conditions of their employment, or they can claim a pattern or practice of sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment. Employers are generally required to take reasonable precautions to maintain a safe work environment, and they are specifically required to act to remedy a situation upon receipt of a hostile work environment complaint from an employee.
The number of reported cases of alleged incidents of sexual harassment or assault by drivers, which is at least somewhere in the thousands, vastly exceeds the number of reported cases by passengers, for which little if any data appears to be available. The right of drivers to be reasonably secure in their place of employment is still a right worth considering when discussing their employment status under the law. Drivers for various taxi or ride-sharing companies are not necessarily protected by sexual harassment laws, since their status as “employees” remains in dispute. An employer’s duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for its employees includes harassment by customers as well as supervisors and co-workers.
The proposed rules regarding sexual harassment, entitled the “TLC Proposed Clean Up Rule Package” (the “Proposed Rules”), were introduced on March 15, 2016. They were scheduled for a vote by the TLC on April 21, but the TLC withdrew them before that date. They would apply to any “licensee,” defined as any individual approved by the TLC to operate a TLC-licensed vehicle. 35 R.C.N.Y. § 51-03. The Proposed Rules would add two new definitions:
– “Sexual harassment” would include conversations “related to sexual acts and sexual contact,” as well as any topic “relating to sexual conduct, gender, [or] physical appearance,” any request for physical contact, and asking a passenger out on a date. Proposed Rules at § 1.
– “Sexual contact” has a very graphic description, summarized as “ any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person,” but it may include “the touching of the licensee by the victim” or “the touching of the victim by the licensee.” Id.
The sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of employees in New York City in state and federal claims for unlawful employment practices. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced advocate for employee rights.
More Blog Posts:
Former Teacher at New York City Day Care Center Alleges Sexual Harassment in Federal Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 27, 2016
New York City Antidiscrimination Agency Will Assist Immigrant Crime Victims in Obtaining Special Visas, Which Could Help with Sexual Harassment Claims, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 13, 2016
Sexual Harassment and the Yoga Industry in New York City and Around the Country, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 27, 2016