After firing a long-time employee who was harassed by a customer, Home Depot is now changing its tune.
Maurice Rucker was working his shift at the home improvement store in Albany, New York when he was insulted by a racist customer after asking the man to leash his dog.
“I said to him, ‘Sir, when you have your dog in here we prefer that you keep it on a leash,” Rucker recalled in an interview with WNYT. Unfortunately, Rucker’s reasonable request set the customer off. “He turned around and said, ‘F**k you. You’re an a**hole, you’re a piece of s**t.’”
But the customer didn’t just curse Rucker out. According to the 60-year-old employee, the man also began hurling racist insults.
“If Trump wasn’t president, you wouldn’t even have a job,” the customer said. “You’re from the ghetto, what do you know?”
After the encounter, Rucker said he had enough.
“‘You’re lucky I’m at work,’” Rucker finally told the customer. “If I wasn’t, this wouldn’t be happening, or you wouldn’t be talking to me like this.’”
In another interview with the Times Union, Rucker explained why he refused to stay silent while he was being attacked.
“I’m a Black man, and I have dealt with all levels of racism all my life,” he said. “I am not going to accept racist behavior at work, home, the streets or anyplace else.”
Rucker had been a dedicated employee with Home Depot for more than a decade, but was fired five days after his confrontation with the customer. While the company called the customer’s behavior appalling, it chided Rucker for how he handled the situation.
“We take any termination very seriously and we’re careful to ensure associates are treated fairly,” Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said in a statement. “In this case, we’re appalled by the customer’s behavior and no one should have to endure verbal abuse, but we also must require associates to follow proper protocol to defuse a situation for the sake of their safety as well as the safety of other associates and customers.”
After Rucker’s story hit the news, however, Home Depot changed its stance. The company told The Washington Post it had “taken another look at” the incident and offered Rucker his job back.
Spokesman Matthew Harrigan explained the decision: “Our concern was that he didn’t disengage and alert management about a customer confrontation.”
Home Depot said it would offer Rucker backpay if he decided to return to the company, but it’s unclear if he wants his old job back.