(CN) – A school bus driver cannot sue after he was fired for refusing to remove a Confederate flag from his truck, a federal judge in Medford, Ore., ruled.
Ken Webber had worked as a bus driver for First Student dba First Student Bus Transportation Services since 2007.
In 2009, his father gave him a 5-by-3 Confederate flag, emblazoned with the word “Redneck,” and Webber hung the flag on his Dodge Dakota pickup truck.
Problems arose when Jackson County School District 4 Superintendent Ben Bergreen noticed the flag in First Student’s employee lot.
Jonel Todd, a manager for First Student’s Talent, Ore., facilities, asked Webber to remove the flag, saying it violated company policy. Webber refused repeatedly and was fired for insubordination.
Webber sued First Student, the Jackson County School District, Todd and Bergreen, claiming he was singled out and discriminated against for exercising his First Amendment rights.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke disagreed in a July 12 report and recommendation to dismiss.
“Although Plaintiff claims that Defendants’ policy burdens a fundamental right, he has failed to offer any evidence that it is a ‘class based denial of a particular right,’ and so does not implicate equal protection,” Clarke wrote.
The court also rejected Webber’s state tort claims, which he brought directly under the Oregon Constitution.
“Such suits are barred by Oregon’s sovereign immunity,” Clarke added.
Since Webber may be able to pursue his Constitution claims under the Oregon Tort Claims Act, the judge granted him leave to amend.
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