After a man last Thursday approached the checkout at a Home Depot in Albany, N.Y., staff member Maurice Rucker asked him to leash his dog. That’s when the man exploded.
Rucker, a 60-year-old black man, claimed he was fired Tuesday after defending himself from a customer who, he told the Times Union, went on a racist tirade. But after the news media covered his story, the company changed its mind.
The customer allegedly responded to Rucker’s request with insults.
“‘If Trump wasn’t president, you wouldn’t even have a job,’” the customer said, according to Rucker’s retelling to NBC affiliate WNYT. “You’re from the ghetto, what do you know?”
Rucker, who did not respond to a request for comment, said he asked the man to leash his dog so he’d be in compliance with store policy.
The man replied with expletives until Rucker decided he had enough.
“You’re lucky I’m at work, because if I wasn’t you wouldn’t be talking to me like this,” Rucker said he told the customer, according to the Times Union.
“I’m a black man, and I have dealt with all levels of racism all my life,” Rucker told Times Union columnist Chris Churchill. “I am not going to accept racist behavior at work, home, the streets or anyplace else.”
Five days later, he was terminated from Home Depot.
“Firing a black man for defending himself seems unfair,” Rucker told Churchill, adding that he had been with the company for 10 years and was named ‘cashier of the month’ in July. Churchill ended his column opining that, “The cliche is wrong. The customer is not always right.”
After Rucker’s firing, Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes told WNYT that the “problem” was that Rucker had not asked a manager to handle the situation.
“We’re appalled by this customer’s behavior, but we also must require associates to follow proper protocol to defuse a situation for the sake of their safety and the safety of other associates and customers,” Holmes said.
By Friday, the company had changed its tune, telling The Washington Post that it had “taken another look at this” and was offering Rucker his job back.
“Our concern was that he didn’t disengage and alert management about a customer confrontation,” spokesman Matthew Harrigan told The Post in an email.
Home Depot said it would provide backpay, but it’s unclear whether Rucker has accepted the offer.