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Law360: Held & Hines’ Case on Discrimination and Anti-Semitism Reported

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Bus Drivers Refused Transport To Israel Rally, Suit Says

By Anna Bongardino · 

Law360 (December 12, 2023, 7:08 PM EST) — New York residents and Jewish Israeli citizens have hit a Staten Island-based charter bus rental company with a proposed class action alleging that several of its drivers conspired to discriminate against Jewish and Israeli passengers by refusing to drive them to a pro-Israel rally in Washington in November.

In the complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Elie Khen and Doron Orbach, along with car and limousine service Ben’s International Luxury Transportation LLC, said US Coachways Inc. has dodged several requests to refund nearly $19,000 they paid for five coach buses that never arrived to pick up passengers who planned to attend the March for Israel at the National Mall on Nov. 14.

“The various drivers communicated by text message and other means so as to coordinate their efforts to prevent Jews and/or Israelis from being transported to said rally,” the plaintiffs said in the complaint. “There can be no doubt that these were acts calculated to carry out a hateful, discriminatory agenda in an underhanded and cowardly manner.”

According to the complaint, Ben’s, which paid the bus company after passengers booked tickets through the Israeli-American Council, received an email four minutes before the scheduled pickup time saying the buses wouldn’t be arriving due to a “driver availability” issue resulting from a “scheduling error.”

The complaint, which also names the drivers as John Does, says the same explanation was given to explain the cancellation of buses scheduled to pick up rally attendees in Connecticut.

“There can be no doubt that such a ‘job action’ is part of a larger conspiracy,” the complaint said. “For example, approximately 900 would-be attendees at the rally from Detroit were stranded at Dulles International Airport when charter bus drivers failed to arrive to transport these individuals from Dulles to the site of the rally at the National Mall, calling in ‘sick’ or failing to appear for various other feigned reasons.”

The plaintiffs argued that US Coachways failed to prevent its drivers’ actions by providing anti-discrimination training or conducting relevant background checks. As a result, they assert that they lost their ability to travel freely and experienced the stigma of religious discrimination, in addition to not being reimbursed for ticket costs.

The complaint asserts nationwide class claims for breach of contract, negligence, violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Federal Transit Law. It also asserts statewide class claims for violations of the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law and the Connecticut Public Accommodations Act.

The plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement, compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to minimize future harm.

Counsel for the proposed class and a representative for US Coachways did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The proposed class is represented by Marc J. Held of Held & Hines LLP.

Counsel information for US Coachways was not immediately available Tuesday.

The case is Khen et al. v. US Coachways Inc. et al., case number 1:23-cv-10762, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

–Editing by Karin Roberts.

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