A New York couple has sued the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission for $3 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit.
The married couple, which consists of 66-year-old Dan Keys Jr. and 53-year-old Symone Palermo, are fighting against an investigation that alleged Keys Jr. was working as an illegal taxi driver.
The investigation began after agents spotted Keys Jr., who is black, dropping off Palermo, who is biracial, in his Lincoln Town Car. Palermo was sitting in the back of the car because the front seat was wet after accumulating rain from the night before. Keys Jr. had driven Palermo from their home in Bayside, Queens to her place of employment in Flushing, where she exited the vehicle.
According to DNA Info, investigators from the Taxi & Limousine Commission pulled over Keys and accused him of illegally operating a taxi service with Palermo as a passenger, whom they described as being white.
“Upon information and belief, when attempting to identify illegally operated taxis, it is the official policy or custom [of the city and the TLC] to instruct its employees to target and single out vehicles operated by minorities with white passengers,” a portion of the lawsuit reads.
Despite accusing Keys Jr. of being an illegal taxi driver, the investigators ultimately ticketed Palermo because she owns the title of the car.
The car was confiscated by the Taxi & Limousine Commission and held until the case against Palermo was dismissed on May 16, 2013, five days after investigators made initial contact with the couple.
According to the New York Post, there are currently 171 inspectors employed with New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, a number that has nearly doubled since last year. The inspectors are largely tasked with identifying and removing illegal taxis as well as ensuring the legal taxis pick up and drop off passengers in designated, authorized zones.
The couple filed their lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court. The lawsuit claims that the TLC investigators falsely created allegations against the couple despite Keys Jr. and Palermo's attempts — both in the moment and afterwards — to clear up the misunderstanding.