The cabbie debate

For a case that appeared to test the limits of one’s religion within the workplace, a decision today by the Minnesota Court of Appeals didn’t have that much to say.

Several Muslim cab drivers have objected to being forced to take passengers who may be carrying alcohol. Under the Metropolitan Airports Commission rules, cabbies have to take whatever passenger gets in the taxi, or they have to go to the back of the airport taxi line (sometimes hours long) and hope they get luckier next time.

According to court documents, there have been 5,222 recorded incidents of cabbies refusing a fare, although it’s not clear how many of those are Muslim cab drivers who object to carrying alcohol on religious grounds.

The drivers proposed a special light on their cabs to identify taxis that are intended to be alcohol free, but the MAC said such a move might lead to passengers boycotting those cabbies. Instead, it imposed additional penalties for refusing service — a 30-day suspension for the first incident, a two-year suspension for the second.

And then there is the constitutional question of whether a taxi driver can assert his freedom of religious expression.

The court wasn’t asked about that — yet — and didn’t address its merits. Instead it refused to overturn a lower court ruling against a temporary injunction on the penalties while the cabbies appeal to the MAC. The court also refused to consider whether the MAC violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

  • bigalmn

    Forget all the other penalties. If my past discussions with cabbies is any indication the biggest penalty would be to send them back to the end of the line at the airport and have them wait another couple of hours for their next fare.