Yellow Cab of Reno faces disability bias suit

Yellow Cab of Reno sued by longtime taxi driver claiming discrimination against disabled

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- A longtime taxi driver and his disabled wife have sued his former employer, claiming he was fired for complaining about fellow Yellow Cab drivers refusing rides to the couple and their service dogs from the Reno airport.

Lawyers for James and Melodie Doud filed the discrimination lawsuit Wednesday in federal court, accusing Yellow Cab of Reno of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by engaging in a pattern of intentional discrimination and bad faith.

It alleges the company fired 60-year-old James Doud "solely in retaliation for his complaints about the failure of Yellow Cab to follow the law protecting the rights of persons with disabilities."

The couple suffered embarrassment, humiliation, inconvenience and outrage at being refused taxi service, according to the lawsuit.

The Douds are seeking unspecified damages and asking U.S. District Judge Miranda Du to order Yellow Cab to initiate employee training regarding disability issues and to reinstate Doud, who has relocated to Colorado Springs, Colo.

A lawyer for company officials said Thursday they deny the allegations and will fight the lawsuit vigorously.

"Yellow Cab of Reno remains committed to providing quality taxi service to the Reno-Sparks area, including those with service animals and any disabilities," Reno attorney Michelle Bumgarner said in an email to The Associated Press.

The Nevada Transportation Authority fined Yellow Cab $1,500 over the incidents on Oct. 23 but suspended half of the fine for two years as long as there are no further violations related to refusal of service.

The couple also has filed complaints with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a notice of a right to sue on Sept. 12.

The Douds said they were denied rides on two different occasions this spring. The first was April 9, when the lawsuit states that three different drivers wouldn't let them in the cabs with their dogs and collapsible motorized scooter.

One driver claimed he wasn't licensed to transport the "handicapped," and another said dogs were dirty and it was against his religion to transport the animals, the lawsuit said.

Doud found airport security and insisted on filing a report with an officer, who eventually flagged down a driver who took the couple home, the lawsuit said.

Doud said they complained directly to Frank Street, general manager of Yellow Cab, but encountered the same scenario six weeks later.

Street told AP on Thursday he intended to respond after he had reviewed the allegations.

Bumgarner said Doud was leasing a cab and therefore not a company employee.

"Yellow Cab of Reno leases vehicles to drivers who are independent contractors in accordance with Nevada Law," she wrote in the email.

Doud said Street told him in June that he was being terminated. Doud said he asked if it was about the incident at the airport.

According to the lawsuit, Street answered, "No comment. We have a conflict of interest. I'm not going to have my drivers break their backs to load scooters into taxis."

The suit says the Douds never asked for any help with the motorized scooter, which weighs less than 40 pounds and can easily be disassembled without tools into five parts, none heavier than a typical suitcase.

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