When an Uber driver allegedly kicked a couple of girlfriends out of his car for what they said was a quick peck on the lips last month, the company's CEO sided with the women and said the driver's Uber license should be revoked. But now a judge hearing a complaint brought by the women has determined there was no evidence that the driver's kicking them out of the car in the middle of New York City had anything to do with their sexual orientation and she's recommended his license be reinstated, reports the New York Post.
The couple, Alex Iovine and Emma Pichl, were booted from the Uber they were riding from Brooklyn to the East Village when they leaned in for a kiss in the backseat of the car, they said. That's when the driver, Ahmad El Boutari, pulled over and ordered them to get out.
On a video one of the women shot on the side of the road after being ordered to get out of the vehicle, Boutari can be heard excitedly saying, "You can't do this in the car. You aren't allowed to do this. It's disrespectful."
But Administrative Law Judge Joycelyn McGeachy-Kuls found that there was not enough evidence to suggest that his actions were motivated by animus toward LGBT people.
"It seems unlikely that this 'peck kiss' alone would cause him to ask the passengers to get out of his car," she wrote in her decision. "It is also unlikely that [the driver] would give up a fare and potentially risk receiving a bad Uber rating for something as mild as a 'peck kiss.'"
Boutari testified that Iovine and Pichl did more than kiss in the back of his car. He said they were "heavy petting," which the judge found "credible."
"[Boutari] credibly testified that he asked the complainants to get out of his car because their conduct violated Uber's policy prohibiting sexual contact between passengers," McGeachy-Kuls wrote, according to the Post.
Meanwhile, McGeachy-Kuls wrote that Pichl and Iovine's statements varied enough when they spoke with Uber, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and in her courtroom that she did not find them credible.
At the time of the incident during Pride Month, Uber released a statement that read "Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination."
Beyond the company's statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced the company's founder, Travis Kalanick -- who stepped down amid scandal at the company, including allegations of rampant sexual harassment -- excoriated the driver for his behavior.
"I think they don't belong driving period," Khosrowshahi said of intolerant drivers.
It is now up to the Taxi and Limousine Commission to decide whether to reinstate Boutari's license.