The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is facing claims that three of its agents discriminated against a black woman wearing a hijab earlier this year.
New York City resident Leitoya Dixon, represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a complaint on Tuesday with the city’s Commission on Human Rights, alleging she was refused assistance based on her religion and race.
The state agency has been named a respondent alongside three MTA employees whose full names were either redacted or not included. The complaint alleges the MTA denied Dixon "full and equal enjoyment" of its services through its employees’ actions.
“New York City prides itself on being an epicenter of diversity and social justice, yet the MTA’s actions in this case diametrically oppose that ideal,” Princess Masilungan, CAIR New York’s legal fellow, said in a statement.
Dixon alleges it was nearing midnight on May 7 when she bought a Long Island Rail Road ticket at Penn Station and struggled to find the train’s designated platform. She ultimately asked for help from an employee, referred to in the complaint as Respondent Danny.
“I don’t answer questions from people who look like you,” the complaint says, describing Danny’s response to Dixon. An MTA employee, unidentified by name in the complaint, affirmed later that Respondent Danny had behaved similarly in the past.
The MTA employee who initially sold her the LIRR ticket — referred to as Respondent Bau — also refused to direct her to the platform, the complaint says.
“Complainant was the only visibly Muslim and African-American customer in line to get assistance from Respondent Bau, and she was the only customer who Respondent Bau refused to assist,” the complaint continues.
Liz Guttierez, a spokeswoman for the LIRR, described the allegation as “repugnant,” if true. An investigation into Dixon’s claims was launched immediately, she said.
Dixon reported the incident to four MTA employees, according to Ahmed Mohamed, CAIR New York’s litigation director. She eventually submitted a comment card to the terminal manager, Respondent Johnson, whose first name was struck from the complaint, but has not heard from her in two months, according to the complaint.
Ahmed said Dixon has had to deal with “a lot of anxiety” on her commutes since the incident. “If an MTA official is willing to tell you that straight to your face, what else are they going to do to deny you service?"