Carmen Hechevarria, an Uber driver, was fined $250 at the Miami International Airport (MIA) on June 18 because she only speaks Spanish (video below).
Miami-Dade County requires that drivers communicate in English, even though 73 percent of the population in that area speaks a language other than English when at home, reports the Miami Herald.
Uber spokesman Javier Correoso said: "It says they have to communicate in English. It doesn’t say they have to speak English."
Uber does not require its drivers to speak English because its English-language app allows drivers to communicate with passengers in English.
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MIA officer Detra Johnson reportedly said "good morning" to Hechevarria in English, but she did not respond, which is what tipped off the officer.
Johnson wrote in his report: "She looked at me like she did not understand me."
Johnson had a Spanish-speaking colleague translate to Hechevarria.
"The more he spoke to her, the more he realized she could not speak or understand English," Johnson noted.
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Hechevarria filmed the officer as he explained to her in Spanish why she was being cited for the violation.
CBC Miami identified Hechevarria as Echevarria, and transcribed her cell phone video.
She asked the officer, "Why are you giving me a ticket?" and he responded: "Because there is a code 'Unable to communicate in English.'"
She recalled the incident began when an airport worker told her to move her vehicle: “She said, 'I don’t know what you’re doing working for Uber if you don’t speak English.’ I did understand that part of the conversation."
Miami-Dade County Director of Communications Michael Hernandez told the news station: "According to Miami-Dade County code, our inspectors can fine someone if they do not have the proficiency in the English language; however they don’t have to be fluent in English. They simply have to be able to communicate in the language."
Karla Damian, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade’s Transportation Department, told the Miami Herald that Miami Beach and airport officials have ticketed about 40 drivers for not following the English rule.
Miami-Dade County commissioners approved the English-language rule in May 2016 when they voted to allow ride-sharing companies to compete with taxis.
However, the Miami-Dade County law may be trumped by a new Florida law that goes into effect on July 1. That law bans local governments from regulating ride-sharing companies most of the time.
Meanwhile, Uber wants the airport to designate a special area where drivers can wait for their passengers, and implement signs to tell passengers where to wait for their rides.
The July 1 Florida law does provide a way for local governments to decide how ride-sharing companies will work at airports.