New York City ferry workers refused to let three Muslim families board a ferry because of phony "security" issues, according to a discrimination complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint said the ordeal turned what was supposed to be a fun summer outing into "one of the worst days" of the family members' lives.
The complaint, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the families took a ferry from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Wall Street on September 21 without a problem. The family then decided to take another ferry to the pier at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The families allegedly asked to board after the other passengers because they had a double stroller and several children with them. Two women in the group were wearing hijabs and other traditional religious clothing, and spoke in "pronounced accents," according to the complaint.
A ferry worker initially agreed to their request. But as the families prepared to board, two ferry employees "had a small conversation," and then one worker prevented the families from getting on, the complaint said. A ferry employee allegedly said they could not board because of a "security issue."
Ferry workers tried to shut the gate as family members asked for an explanation, and said "security" had told them not to let the families board, the complaint said. Another ferry worker was allegedly "rude, unprofessional and raised her voice" when the families tried to learn why they were refused service.
The incident happened in plain view of other passengers, and caused many of the children in the group to start crying, according to the complaint.
The employees eventually said the families weren't allowed to board because children were allegedly standing on the seats. The families saw this as an "after-the-fact false excuse" for "discriminatory conduct." NYC Ferry later admitted that this explanation was false, according to the complaint.
After about two hours of waiting, the families were allowed to board the same ferry they took from Bay Ridge, the complaint said. They never took the trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park.
NYC Ferry called the incident a "misunderstanding" and offered to reimburse the fares, the complaint said. CAIR is asking for compensatory damages for "humiliation, embarrassment, and severe emotional distress," and punitive damages "to deter future reprehensible conduct," as well as a formal apology and discipline for the ferry workers involved.
Brooklyn Patch first reported on the complaint.
New York's Economic Development Corporation, which runs NYC Ferry, did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment. A spokesperson for the corporation said in a statement to Brooklyn Patch that it is investigating the incident and "is committed to ensuring that no person is denied the services based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, gender identity or disability."