Couple kicked out of Uber for kissing
A NEW York Uber driver kicked a lesbian couple out of his car for kissing in the back seat - because he found the act "disrespectful," according to video showing the aftermath of the incident.
Emma Pichl, 24, and her girlfriend of two years, Alex Iovine, 26, had just left a friend's birthday party at a bar in Brooklyn around 5pm on Saturday when the pair hailed an Uber to take them to another friend's party.
"We got over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. We were sitting on opposite sides of the back seat. At one point we leaned over and pecked kiss, very fast," Ms Pichl told The Post on Monday.
Five minutes later, according to Ms Pichl, the driver "pulled the cab over and said, 'You should not do that … do not do that.'"
"And then he opened the car doors," she said. "I thought he was kidding and then Alex said, 'I don't think he is.'"
Ms Pichl, who noted that neither she nor Ms Iovine was intoxicated, added: "He started yelling at us that we were disrespectful and inappropriate and that he wants us out of his car … we were going back and forth trying to understand."
A 62-second video posted to YouTube by Ms Iovine titled "Uber driver kicks 2 girls out of his car for being gay" shows the moments after the Uber driver booted the women.
Both women can be heard asking the driver what the "issue" is as they are outside the vehicle.
"I said … don't do it," the driver, identified by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission as Ahmad El Boutari, tells the women who then ask the motorist if kissing is "illegal" in an Uber.
"Yeah, it is illegal," the driver says. "You don't do that here in the car … you are not allowed to do this."
One of the outraged women then questions the driver, saying, "What are you f***ing talking about? Are you sick in the head?"
Ms Iovine, who filmed as the encounter played out, then asks the sunglasses-wearing driver: "Why are we not allowed to kiss in an Uber?"
"You are not allowed … it's disrespectful … it's disrespectful. I don't want to argue with you. Just get off my car," the driver says.
Ms Iovine fires back: "I want to understand - what did we do wrong? Nothing is illegal. It is not illegal to kiss in New York."
Ms Pichl told The Post that a moment later, the driver "grabbed" her arm to get her phone out of her hand.
"Get off of her phone. Don't f***ing touch her," Ms Iovine is heard saying in the clip. "I'm reporting you. I'm gonna get you fired."
Mr El Boutari then says, "I don't care."
After the video ended, Ms Pichl said the driver "just got back in his car and sped off. We paid for a full Uber ride. It was 22 bucks."
Ms Pichl, a senior recruiter for a recruiting company, said she and her partner, a consultant for a technology company, were left stunned by the discriminatory incident.
"We were in shock. Definitely very shaken and upset. We always thought we lived in this untouchable New York City bubble where LGBTQ is so accepted," Ms Pichl said.
"We never thought something like this would happen to us. It was a good lesson to show it can happen to you anywhere.
"It didn't feel real."
On Saturday, the Manhattan couple filed a complaint with Uber, which contacted the pair on Monday, apologised and said the company would fully refund their ride.
"Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have reached out to the rider regarding her experience. We are investigating and will take appropriate action," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
According to Uber, which has a non-discrimination policy, the incident was also reported to the company by the driver.
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission said on Monday that no complaint with the agency had been filed in connection to the incident, but that it has launched an investigation.
"[A] driver is most definitely not allowed to do such a thing. There is a list of circumstances that are grounds for refusing service to a passenger, and what happened is most definitely not among them," TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said.
According to Ms Pichl, Ms Iovine also filed a complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission in connection to the incident which took place during Pride Month.
Additional reporting by Danielle Furfaro