“Monkey” and “blackie” were only two of the racially charged slurs that were allegedly hurled at the only black bus driver at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn, N.Y., Newsweek reports.
Willis Baker claims in a lawsuit that while employed at the United Talmudical Academy of Boro Park Inc. last year, he was not only subjected to the racial epithets but also had to put up with extra work and was denied back wages and overtime pay, the news site notes. The 56-year-old bus driver also says that Yanke Schaefer, who hired him for the job, openly called Baker his “monkey friend” to his face as well as in front of others.
“I just thought to myself, I really got myself into one hell of a pickle here,” Baker recalls thinking when Schaefer allegedly said the slur.
But according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, the harassment did not stop there. While he was driving the bus, according to the lawsuit, students called the driver “monkey,” “blackie” and “stupid.” They also reportedly threw “candy, spit balls, paper and solid hard objects” at him while teachers on the bus allegedly turned a blind eye, Newsweek reports.
In the lawsuit, Baker also claims that his employer ordered him to clean and service buses that he didn’t drive. Baker says that he was the only one who was told to do so and did not get any extra money for the additional work. Baker says that when he mentioned the extra work and the slurs to Schaefer, he allegedly told Baker to “shut up and appreciate the fact that [he had] a job in the first place,” the site notes.
Schaefer accused Baker of causing two separate accidents involving a car, one in August and one in December, and then insisted that the bus driver pay for each accident, at a cost of $1,500 apiece. In August, $500 was deducted from three separate paychecks of his for one alleged accident. Baker insists, however, that this accident never happened; nor was there ever any damage to the bus. The bus driver also says that Schaefer never gave him any proof of a collision.
In December, according to the bus driver, a car made an errant turn, scraping its side against Baker’s bus. Schaefer told Baker that the owner of that car claimed $1,500 in damages. Baker attempted to explain that the accident was not his fault and also pointed out that the bus was insured.
Schaefer still demanded that the pay be docked from Baker’s paycheck. When Baker insisted that the school would have to pay him back wages and overtime, Schaefer allegedly told Baker to return the bus and told him that he would no longer be driving for the school, according to the suit.
Schaefer, for his part, according to Newsweek, denies the accusations and accused Baker of unsafe driving. “I took him in as a driver, so there’s no discrimination,” Schaefer told Newsweek, adding that the school has Hasidic, Russian and African-American drivers. “We have an African-American driver who was driving the same time as him who told [Baker] he was unsafe [and] ‘You’ve got to be good.’
“He made me, like, five accidents,” he added.
Schaefer also says that Baker told him that he would quit if there was video proof of the accident in December. Baker allegedly saw the video and left as he said he would, Schaefer claims. Baker denies Schaefer’s claims that he agreed to quit and insists that he was fired. The bus driver is suing the school and Schaefer for $2 million in damages.
Read more at Newsweek.