Taxicab Board fines Duffy's driver accused of propositioning passenger

Taxicab Board fines Duffy's driver accused of propositioning passenger

A Winnipeg woman is glad the taxi driver she says propositioned her for sex during a ride last fall has been fined, but she isn't satisfied with the punishment handed down by Manitoba's Taxicab Board.

"I'm happy that they had some sort of repercussion, although I would have liked something more to be done," Patricia Nosal said.

The Taxicab Board found a Duffy's Taxi driver made Nosal "feel uncomfortable and insecure" and ordered him to pay $850 in fines within 30 days of the ruling. Randy Chhokar, who is on the Duffy's Taxi board of directors, told CBC News the driver paid the fine and is back behind the wheel.

Following a night out with friends one weekend last fall, Nosal, 21, said her Duffy's Taxi driver asked her if she wanted "to make some extra money" as he drove her home.

Nosal said after an unusual detour, her driver pulled up outside her home, and to her surprise, a male passenger exited a second Duffy's cab that was parked outside her home and approached her side of the vehicle she was in.

Passenger felt unsafe

"[The passenger] got out of the cab and he said, 'I hear you would like to make some money?'" Nosal said early in November 2016. 

"I just looked at my cab driver and I was like, 'I don't know what the hell is going on here. I don't know what you're trying to do, but I am not interested.'"

Nosal felt unsafe and reported the incident to Duffy's Taxi as soon as she got inside her home, but she felt the operator on the line didn't take her concerns seriously.​

Both drivers said it was all a misunderstanding.

"What they've told me is that the driver who was waiting at your destination had a family emergency that required him to return home and could not complete the trip he was currently on. That driver called the driver of the taxi you were in and asked if they could meet at the end of his current fare to exchange the passenger," a spokesperson with Duffy's said in a statement to Nosal last fall.

Drivers fined

Nosal registered her complaints with the Taxicab Board, which conducted an investigation and ruled on the case in January.

Both drivers were accused of engaging in prohibited conduct against a passenger, among other violations under the Taxicab Act.

The second driver was fined $250 for using his cellphone while transporting a passenger and referring a passenger to another taxicab. 

Nosal's driver was found guilty of not engaging the meter, using a cellphone while transporting a passenger and "making a passenger feel unfomfortable."

"After a careful review of all the evidence, the Board determined that [the driver] did do or say something that would make a reasonable passenger feel uncomfortable or insecure, did use a cellphone while transporting a passenger and did not engage the meter," the decision in the case reads.

"The board decided that [the driver's] actions in directing another driver and his passenger to the location of the complainant's home was indeed doing something that would make his passenger feel uncomfortable and insecure. The driver admitted to using a cellphone and the camera evidence proved the meter was not engaged."

Power to suspend

Under section 14(1.6)(e) of the Taxicab Act, the Taxicab Board can order a driver found guilty of violating aspects of the act to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

If a driver violates the act, breaks the terms of a taxi licence or acts "in a manner that is contrary to the public interest in relation to the taxicab industry," the board may hold a hearing into a matter.

In addition to monetary fines, the act also gives the board power to suspend or cancel the permit of a taxicab licence holder, direct the holder to take "a specified training course," impose restrictions on a driver's operator licence or permit, or force a driver to cover hearing costs.

A spokesperson with the Taxicab Board said both drivers have valid taxicab driver licenses. The second driver has until April 17 to pay the $250 fine.​

Chhokar said if the Taxicab Board wanted to, it could have suspended or cancelled each driver's taxicab permits or licences but chose instead to penalize them with fines. He said Duffy's couldn't follow suit and fire the men because it would violate labour laws. 

Unacceptable behaviour

Nosal said the fine her driver received doesn't go far enough, but she is happy to know he was in some way held accountable.

"It's nice to know there is some sort of enforcement mechanism in place [so] that these individuals know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable nor tolerated," Nosal said.

In November 2016, a couple of weeks after the incident, Duffy's general manager Ram Valluru jumped the gun and told media the Taxicab Board investigation was done and had cleared the drivers of wrongdoing.

The Taxicab Board said the investigation was ongoing, and Duffy's reinstated the suspensions.

Chhokar said both drivers remained suspended between November and the conclusion of the Taxicab Board investigation in January.

While the first driver paid his fine and was allowed back on the job, Chhokar said the second driver "disappeared" and never returned to work. He is officially listed as suspended in Duffy's system, Chhokar said.

"We are not happy with what happened but, you know, we have to deal with it," he said.

Nosal said while it's been an "annoying and time-consuming" process, she urges other women and marginalized groups of people to report similar incidents when they happen.

"We have to come forward, especially young women. We have to hold each other's backs and we have to fight," she said.

"I'm just one story."