MIAMI – A Spanish-speaking Uber driver was fined $250 at Miami International Airport Sunday morning for violating a county requirement that drivers be able to communicate in English.
The alleged violation left the driver, Carmen Hechevarría, complaining of unfair treatment in a county where Census figures show 73 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home at least some of the time. Uber said it has never required drivers to be able to speak English, saying the English-language app drivers use to communicate with passengers complies with Miami-Dade’s language rule.
“It says they have to communicate in English,” Uber spokesman Javier Correoso said of the county rule. “It doesn’t say they have to speak English.”
Telemundo 51 first reported the citation, including cellphone video Hechevarría recorded showing an airport security officer, in Spanish, explaining why he was issuing her a ticket.
“I felt discriminated against,” Hechevarría told Telemundo, as reported by Channel 6.
Karla Damian, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade’s Transportation Department, which regulates for-hire vehicles, said the violation is hardly rare. The county has cited about 40 drivers for not meeting county rules regarding English.
Uber driver Carmen Hechevarría, fined $250 at the Miami airport for not being able to speak English
Miami-Dade commissioners approved the English-language provision when they adopted county legislation in May 2016 authorizing Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies to compete with taxis. English proficiency has been a longstanding requirement for Miami-Dade taxi drivers, and the county’s “Uber law” states ride-hailing drivers shall “be able to communicate in the English language.”
While hard fought, the county’s Uber law is on the verge of being pushed aside by Florida legislation that bars local governments from regulating ride-hailing companies in most circumstances. The Florida law does not include English-language requirements, but it does not go into effect until July 1.
That means the county’s requirements on English were in effect when Hechevarría was issued her citation. On Sunday, an MIA officer monitoring traffic at the airport saw Hechevarría letting passengers out on the curb. After saying good morning in English to Hechevarría, the officer said the driver didn’t respond.