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Uber Driver Fined in Florida for Not Speaking English

An Uber driver in South Florida said she was issued a $250 fine for failing to communicate with officers in English. The county mayor will likely waive it.
Image: An UberX car in New York.
An UberX car in New York on July 15, 2015.Mark Kauzlarich / Redux Pictures

An Uber driver in Florida was fined on Sunday for violating a county ordinance requiring that that ride-hailing service drivers speak English.

Cellphone footage obtained by NBC Miami's sister station Telemundo 51 showed Carmen Echevarría being given a $250 fine by a Miami-Dade officer outside the Miami International Airport after asking her passenger to translate what the officer was telling her.

"I felt discriminated against," Echevarría told Telemundo in Spanish. "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 [needed] to speak English."

The basis for the fine was a 2016 memorandum issued by Miami-Dade County mandating that all drivers with transportation networks like Uber "be able to communicate in the English language."

Echevarría may not have to pay the fine. A spokesperson for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told NBC Miami that the county is reviewing the matter. Gimenez has the power to waive the fine, and the mayor’s office told the station he likely will waive it.

"It does seem like she could communicate in the English language and take directions so it's unfortunate that a fine was issued," Michael Hernández, the mayor's communications director, told the station. "The county can work with this driver and with Uber to address this situation."

There is no mention of a language requirement on the Uber website for Miami and South Florida. More than 60 percent of the residents of Miami-Dade County speak Spanish and 48 percent of those people reported speaking English less than "very well," according to Census data.

"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 wrote in a statement to NBC Miami.

This is reportedly not an isolated occurrence. Around 40 drivers have been cited in Miami-Dade for not meeting the language requirement, the Miami Herald reported, citing numbers provided by a spokesperson for Miami-Dade's Transportation Department.

A bill passed in April will undo the county's English language requirement along with any other local regulation on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and passing statewide regulations. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill last month. The local rules will be overturned on July 1.

An Uber spokesperson pointed to that date in a statement to NBC Miami, saying that the service is "proud of the diversity of driver partners in the South Florida market" but drivers should follow all local regulations until the statewide regulations go into effect.