The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Chair/Commissioner Meera Joshi and New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the successful resolution of an investigation of allegations that Yellow Cab SLS Jet Management Corp. had fraudulently overcharged drivers leasing their taxicabs in excess of the TLC’s lease cap rules. As a result of the joint TLC/O.A.G. investigation’s findings, SLS Jet has now paid $1,387,500 in restitution that will be restored to victims, plus an additional $250,000 in penalties to both the TLC and O.A.G., plus $25,000 that would be used to defray the costs of monitoring the company’s future compliance with TLC rules. This investigation and its resolution is the second product of an ongoing close collaboration between the TLC and the O.A.G. to protect the consumer rights of taxicab drivers.
“Taxi drivers are among the hardest working New Yorkers,” said TLC Chair Meera Joshi, “And the resolution of this case, including the recouping of over $1.39 million in restitution for victimized drivers and their families, sends a powerful message to anyone considering this kind of abuse that it will not be tolerated. The Attorney General’s Office and the TLC are fully and jointly-committed to putting an end to this, and other forms of fraud and abuse where monies rightly belonging to drivers are illegally withheld, and drivers can feel confident that we will investigate every credible allegation we see.”
“Every worker in New York deserves an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, and taxicab drivers are no exception,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “With most cabbies already struggling to make ends meet, our agreement will put money back in their pockets and prevent this company from cheating drivers out of their hard-earned wages. Working with Commissioner Joshi and the TLC, we will continue to vigorously enforce lease cap rules and ensure that all taxi companies follow the law and respect drivers’ rights.”
The TLC’s Lease Cap rules ensure that the costs associated with the operation of yellow medallion taxicabs by taxi leasing agents, of which SLS Jet is one of 62, are fairly shared with drivers who are their customers. Drivers pay the lease fees, which range from $105 to $132 per 12-hour shift for those who lease by the day, prior to starting their shifts, with their day’s earnings going to recoup lease fees and other expenses, such as fuel and taxes. The first investigative collaboration with the A.G.’s Office culminated in a December 2013 settlement with the city’s largest taxi operator, Evgeny Freidman, and four taxi lease agents, in which these agents had fraudulently overcharged drivers for taxi leases. Friedman and the parties in that case paid almost $750,000 in driver restitution, and $500,000 in penalties.
“The drivers who came forward are the heroes who forced cap enforcement practices in the industry. They took on retaliation and harassment in the name of justice and today they have triumphed,” said NY Taxi Workers Alliance organizer Bhairavi Desai. “Given a driver who overcharges by $10 loses their license and faces prosecution for multiple offenses, the SLS Jet owners should be relieved for not facing criminal charges. We thank the leadership of A.G. Schneiderman and the Labor Bureau and TLC Chair Joshi and her prosecutors for staying the course and sending the message that drivers’ economic rights will be protected.”
• One part of the drivers’ overcharging were so called ‘late fees’ for supposedly returning the leased cab too late.