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Ignoring Deaf Customer Cost Cab Company $42K

Deaf News: New Jersey's Passaic Cab Company accused of ignoring Deaf customer must pay $42K.

PATERSON, NJ -- Patch: Nicole Perkins contacted the company 3 times while waiting in heavy snow but was hung up and told to stop calling, officials said.

A Passaic County company who ignored and hung up on a Deaf woman's attempts to get cab during a snowstorm in 2014 was hit with a $42,000 judgement, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced Monday.

Superior Court Judge Thomas J. LaConte ruled that Clifton Taxi and Limousine Inc. violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and unlawfully denied service to Nicole Perkins, who is Deaf.

Perkins, of Jamaica, New York, contacted the company three times through a telecommunications relay service during a state of emergency and snowstorm in January 2014. Perkins was waiting for a bus that was delayed in Clifton and called the company, according to the complaint the state Division of Civil Rights filed against Clifton Taxi.

The relay service allows Perkins to make calls by sending text messages from her cell phone to a relay operator.

An operator called the company, advising them that she was assisting a Deaf Caller, but was hung up on twice. On the third call, someone at Clifton Taxi picked up and allegedly responded, "Please stop calling" and then hung up, the complaint said.

The company must pay Perkins $6,000 for emotional distress, $20,000 in penalties, and $16,000 in attorney fees.

Under federal law, all telecommunications providers are required to provide telecommunications relay services. Through these services, an individual who is Deaf, Hard of Hearing or has a speech disability can communicate in real time by telephone.

“Setting aside for a moment the egregious nature of the circumstances - a deaf woman being hung up on three times as she sought a ride to escape an oncoming blizzard - the fact is that businesses and other places of public accommodation can’t simply ignore a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person trying to communicate through a relay service,” Attorney General Porrino said in a statement. "This is an important outcome, because it puts service providers and other businesses on notice that we’re serious about protecting the rights of persons with hearing and other disabilities, and that we will hold accountable anyone who fails to follow the law.”

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