An Uber driver in South Florida was given a hefty ticket for violating a county ordinance that speaks less to how she handles her vehicle than other skills.
Cell phone footage obtained exclusively by NBC 6 sister station Telemundo 51 captured Carmen Echevarria, getting a $250 ticket from a Miami-Dade Police officer outside Miami International Airport. Her violation? Not being able to speak English correctly.
"I felt discriminated against," Echevarria told the station in Spanish. "I asked the (passenger sitting in her car) ‘Can you please help translate what she is saying?’ Then she asked why, if I was an Uber driver, I didn’t speak English."
In May 2016, Miami-Dade County issued a memorandum with rules for transportation network drivers – with one of the requirements being "able to communicate in the English language."
"I told her ‘so sorry, a little English’ then she called the inspector who also confronted me and told me in order to be an Uber driver I need it to speak English”.
Miami-Dade Department of Transportation Public Relations Officer Karla Damian issued a statement attempting to clarify the rule.
"The Code doesn’t require the driver to be ‘proficient’ in the English language, but the driver should have some knowledge of the English language in order to communicate with a passenger in case of an emergency or to receive and understand basic directions from the passenger(s)," Damian wrote.
A spokesman for the office of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said usually warnings are given instead of citations.
It does seem like she could communicate in the English language and take directions so it's unfortunate that a fine was issued," said Mike Hernandez, the mayor's communications director. "The county can work with this driver and with Uber to address this situation."
Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law CS/HB 221, which overrides local laws like the English requirement across the state and also spells out insurance and background check requirements for ride-sharing companies.
Uber spokesman Javi Correoso sent a statement to NBC 6 saying the company is "proud of the diversity of driver partners in the South Florida market." Correoso went on to say that until statewide regulations go into effect on July 1, Uber asks all driver partners in the state to follow all applicable local laws and regulations.
The current language requirement for drivers in Miami is not listed on the Uber website for the area. Correoso said the memo law for Miami-Dade County is "very vague and difficult to enforce" and is not listed on their website because drivers are asked to follow all laws and regulations when they sign up.
Correoso said all paperwork given to drivers on applications is in English. He also said some fines for Uber drivers have been paid in the past by the company, but could not confirm if they would pay for Echevarria's fine.