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Florida Uber driver faces fine for violating rarely enforced English-speaking rule

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An Uber driver in Florida felt “discriminated against” when she received a fine for not being able to communicate with her passengers in English.

Uber driver Carmen Echevarria is facing a $250 fine for violating a Miami-Dade County ordinance that requires transportation network drivers to be “able to communicate in the English language,” according to WTVJ-TV.

A Miami-Dade Police officer wrote the citation outside Miami International Airport and the incident was captured by cell phone video obtained by WSCV-TV.

“I felt discriminated against. 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,” Echevarria told the station in Spanish.

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“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,” she said.

The May 2016 memorandum issued by Miami-Dade County officials lists rules for ride-sharing drivers who want to operate in the area.

“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),” Miami-Dade Department of Transportation Public Relations Officer Karla Damian said in a statement.

“It does seem like she could communicate in the English language and take directions so it’s unfortunate that a fine was issued,” a spokesman for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “The county can work with this driver and with Uber to address this situation.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill last month overriding local laws across the state like the one in Miami. The new law also detailed insurance and background check requirements for ride-sharing companies.

Javi Correoso, a spokesman for Uber, told WTVJ that the language requirement is not listed on their website for the Miami area because it’s “very vague and difficult to enforce” and drivers are required to follow all local laws and regulations anyway.

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While Uber has paid some fines for Uber drivers in the past, Correoso could not confirm if Echevarria’s fine would be covered by the company.

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Frieda Powers

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