Jose Lambiet

Florida Panthers, former mascot Stanley settle lawsuit

The former inhabitant of the outfit known as Stanley C. Panther has agreed to settle his discrimination lawsuit against the NHL’s Florida Panthers, his former employer.

Raphael Estevez, the man who played the perpetually happy mascot for four of his seven years with the club, claimed in last year’s complaint that he was illegally fired, and thus discriminated against, after he became sick because of a bout with depression.

Estevez, who has since moved on to a gig as director of activities at the fancy Harmony Golf Preserve in Orlando, also claimed the Panthers owed him 1,400 hours in unpaid overtime.

The settlement Estevez and the Panthers signed in a federal court in Fort Lauderdale is confidential. And neither attorney agreed to comment about the deal.

But according to their motion to dismiss the case, the Panthers did not admit any wrongdoing and still say Estevez was paid “properly.”

“After considerable discussion, analysis and negotiation, the parties have reached a settlement that is a fair and reasonable compromise of all claims,” the motion reads.

Estevez started out with the Panther Patrol, an exuberant group of cheerleaders whose job is to “boost the energy level of the crowd.” He was moved inside the red jersey-clad Stanley in 2012.

As the most visible Panther, Estevez says he was asked to make numerous private, off-the-ice appearances he was never paid for. He claimed the Panthers accused him of charging season-ticket holders for private appearances.

In March 2016, Estevez said, he was admitted in a Hollywood hospital and diagnosed with severe depression.

He returned to work six days later having missed one home game, according to the lawsuit. Estevez claimed in his complaint he noticed the attitude of other employees toward him became different. His relationship with the team deteriorated until he was canned in April 2016.

According to the motion to approve the settlement, the Panthers agreed to settle so that they could “limit the expenses associated with further litigation.”