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Key West to settle religious discrimination suit by former bus driver

A former Key West bus driver says he refused to work Fantasy Fest because he is a Jehovah’s Witness.
A former Key West bus driver says he refused to work Fantasy Fest because he is a Jehovah’s Witness.

The city of Key West has reached an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a former city bus driver who claimed religious discrimination fueled his firing after he refused to work during the nudity-filled Fantasy Fest.

Bobby Walker Jr. sued the city March 3, 2016, nearly three months after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed his claim over his firing. He accused his bosses of mocking his religious beliefs and making derogatory comments about his race before firing him from the $13-an-hour job in retaliation when he complained.

The city filed a notice of settlement April 5, in advance of the April 17 trial date set for federal court in Key West before Judge Jose Martinez.

Walker worked as a temporary bus driver from May 27, 2014, until Jan. 2, 2015, earning an annual salary of $27,827. On Dec. 31, 2015, he was told he was fired for refusing to work on New Year’s Eve 2014.

But Walker says due to his religious beliefs he asked for the time off two days before the 2014 Fantasy Fest parade — which wraps up the city’s annual 10-day festival known for drawing throngs of scantily clad men and women who often opt for full body paint.

The details of the settlement were not listed in court documents but the Key West City Commission must sign off on any payments.

Walker’s attorneys requested a judge bar the city from bringing up at trial two other discrimination complaints lodged by his client, including a lawsuit against another former employer, Indian River Transport, for religious discrimination.

Walker, “a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a black man living in the South, has suffered discrimination in the past,” Melton wrote in court filings.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

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