In a federal lawsuit, the only African-American school bus driver at a Jewish school says he was regularly taunted with racial slurs like “monkey” and “blackie”.
Willis Baker was an employee of United Talmudical Academy of Boro Park Inc. in New York from July to December 2014, the Raw Story Story reported. Baker alleges that the man who hired him, Yanke Schaefer, called him his “monkey friend” in front of other people.
“I just thought to myself, I really got myself into one hell of a pickle here,” Baker said, describing his reaction to the racially inflammatory remark. Baker says when he complained about the remark, he was told to “shut up and appreciate that he had a job in the first place.”
Baker alleges Schaefer’s remark wasn’t his only interaction with racism.
Baker, 56, also claimed that he was called “monkey,” “blackie” and “stupid” while students were throwing things at him as he was driving the school bus, and no teachers intervened.
Alexander M. Dudelson, Baker’s lawyer, confirms that he is suing the United Talmudical Academy for $2 million dollars in damages.
Black “Monkey Friend” Bus Driver at Jewish School Forced to Work 80 Hrs/Wk, Clean Up After White DriversClick to tweet
Baker also claims he was forced to work as a janitor for non-black drivers and denied overtime pay:
Baker’s employer also told him to clean and service buses that were driven by non-African-American drivers—and he was the only employee ordered to do so and didn’t get additional pay for the extra work, the suit claims.
During his time at the school, Baker drove some six runs per day. He also cleaned and fueled vehicles and transported multiple buses to maintenance. The Brooklyn resident worked 13 hours a day, Sundays through Thursdays, and seven and a half hours on Fridays, totaling 72.5 hours per week, the lawsuit stipulates. Baker received a flat salary of $600 weekly from July to August, and then a flat weekly rate of $850 from then until December.
Baker alleges he was assigned another route not worked by other drivers, increasing his hours worked per week to 82.5. When Baker asked Schaefer about the increased hours, he says his boss again told him that he was “lucky” to have a job.
In addition, Baker claims money was deducted from his paycheck, $1,500 at one point, for an accident that never occurred.
Baker says he was finally fired after another driver hit his bus, causing damage. He claims Schaefer said the owner of the other vehicle again claimed $1,500 in damages. Baker answered by reminding Schaefer that the accident wasn’t his fault and that he’d never received proof of damages from the first alleged accident.
When Schaefer demanded that $1,500 be taken out of Baker’s wages, the employee demanded back wages and overtime pay. That, according to Baker, led to him being fired.