Seattle couple accuses Lyft driver of racist taunts

SEATTLE — It’s a story you saw first on KIRO 7, an interracial couple from Seattle said one of their recent Lyft drivers kicked them to the curb and lobbed racial slurs at them.

Alex Dugdale and Kylie Steinbach spoke to KIRO 7 to share their story. Dugdale said the racist language thrown at him was so surprising he had to wonder what prompted it, Steinbach also felt the entire episode was odd, “I couldn’t really believe that it was happening in my city.”

The couple did report the incident to the Seattle Police Department which did confirm it is under investigation. The couple said their Lyft ride began in Lake City, but took a wrong turn fast when they felt targeted because they were an interracial couple.

Dugdale said the Lyft driver’s language and actions were so unsettling, he wondered if the driver was capable of injuring them.

“It was terrifying,” Dugdale said.

Dugdale and Steinbach said a Lyft ride on St Patrick's Day was their ideal way to get to Shoreline. They had plans to go out and celebrate the holiday, and said they were picked up near 143rd St and Lake City Way in Seattle, but the driver barely drove a block before he ordered them out of his car and canceled their ride.

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The couple's social media posts explain the insults and racist slurs that were hurled at them, which included the N-word. Dugdale said he was forced to wonder what brought the animosity, “I couldn't rationalize this man's racist and bigoted behavior.”

The couple said all all they did was ask the driver if they could make a brief stop at a 7-11 and he declined before ordering them out. After the driver left they say they walked to a 7-11 that is close to their apartment and ultimately decided to reach out to Lyft -- believing race is why they were kicked to the curb.

Steinbach said their phone calls to Lyft and interactions over social media did not produce the results they had hoped for, “I told them there was an altercation with the driver and they didn't even ask what the altercation was.”

The couple said that Lyft promised not to pair them with that driver again, but gave no indication whether he would be disciplined or if the company was going to take their issue seriously.

KIRO 7 contacted Lyft, which did confirm that it is investigating the incident.

In a statement, company spokesperson Kate Margolis said, “This type of behavior would constitute a violation of Lyft's anti-discrimination policy, which can result in permanent deactivation from the Lyft platform....We have reached out to the driver and passenger. Both parties are alleging inappropriate behavior and we are continuing to investigate this incident."

When KIRO 7 pressed for more details on why both parties were accused of inappropriate behavior the company would only indicate that the driver claimed he was subjected to harassment.

The couple denies saying anything offensive, in fact, Steinbach said the initial interaction with the driver was mundane, “aside from asking to stop at 7-11 and taking two complimentary mints and you (Alex) asked him why he was asking us to leave.”

We asked Lyft if we could talk to the driver, and were told company policy and privacy regulations prevented them from connecting us directly.

KIRO 7’s Ranji Sinha offered his phone number to Lyft asking the spokesperson or anyone else to pass it on to the driver, and were told that they would consider doing so, but he never received a call from the driver.

KIRO 7 also found a possible address for the driver, but when our crew knocked on his door the crew was told he wasn't there. The couple said they're sharing their story to see if Lyft will act. Steinbach said she wants one thing for certain: “Some sort of apology.”

Dugdale also said sharing the story also sheds light on the issue, noting, “we want people to know that this still happens. It's happening in Seattle.”

Lyft did not say if the driver would face discipline, but said they planned to look back at old comments from riders to see if anything like this has happened before.